I read Live By The Bottle in a single burst, intrigued by the
way the language of poetry and dreams twists through the
narrative, proffering Jungian threads, and beckoned by the
familiarity of Madeline Mills’ story, a modern woman’s tale.
– Frances Paterson, songwriter
"Writing's what you do when you're desperate," Madeline Mills writes in her journal, two months before committing unpremeditated murder. The mounting sense of claustrophobic menace that Margaret Metz evokes within the insular suburban idyll of Koala Bay is both sharpened and offset by such quotes.
As well, Madeline's dreams, poems and short prose pieces strewn the length of the narrative like stray flowers through dense bush — or like a madwoman's breakfast, which we'll read about after the climax — inject a surreal dimension into a text of relentless realism and reveal subtleties that Madeline's actions lack.
Any woman who's ever lived with an unreconstructed alcoholic man (a sizable target market in Australia!) may well derive guilty pleasure from Live by the Bottle, which reads like the flipside of the classic AA testimonial, as we witness the decay of love through the alcoholic's partner's eyes.
In the first scene they share, we discover that Madeline and Gordon are far from suited to each other. Each subsequent scene charts a downhill slide. Yet, however we judge her will to control or his abject passivity, their tale compels because we know its truth from the outside or the inside. Possessed of a rare gift for dialogue, Margaret Metz records conversations that make us wince with recognition. Nor does she pull any punches in the bedroom or when conflicts get physical.
In this novel about the shadow cast by unrecognised creativity and frustrated sexuality, which may not always be distinguishable from each other, Margaret Metz offers riveting insights into what drives individuals to violence and to drink.
– Sue Booker, novelist
Live by the Bottle masquerades as a ‘whodunit’ while
delving deeply into the violent dysfunctional relationship between middle-aged
partners, Gordon and Madeline.
The reader is never allowed to settle into complacency as the characters play out their charms and their neuroses in quick succession.
Set in Koala Bay, located one and half hours from Sydney, and featuring a step-by-step house renovation, Live by the Bottle is a "true crime" story with the emphasis not on the ‘who’ but more on the ‘why’.
This contemporary murder story has Jungian dream sequences interweaved throughout - it will appeal to readers who enjoy a crime story involving complex characters and motivations.
It leans towards a feministic point of view but manages to pull back from any stereotyping in a way that leaves the reader intrigued right till the final page.
Margaret Metz has been a professional writer and editor for 14 years with
specialised experience in creating ‘magic words’ for environmental
Her writing credits include a wide range of publications including poetry and short stories published in Southerly, Imago and Australian Women’s Forum.
An earlier version of the book received high praise from Margaret’s thesis supervisors at the University of Western Sydney and was then Highly Commended by the judges of the IP Picks 2004 Award for Best Fiction.
Margaret lives at Copacabana in the Central Coast region of New South Wales.