Monotony and Melancholia

Mud Vein - Tarryn Fisher
”You are at once both the quiet and the confusion of my heart.”
-Franz Kafka

I couldn’t choose a quote from this book, so we’ll go with that one.

Well this certainly wouldn’t be a crowd pleaser. And something about an author as established as Tarryn Fisher refusing to pander to certain limits and expectations makes me want to outright slap a 5 star rating on Mud Vein. Something about seeing her unmistakable fingerprints all over a book that is such a departure from the comforts set by a series as successful as Love Me With Lies just clenches at my heart. 

Because seriously, I know its a personal question and all but what’s the level of meta in this book? On a scale of Wheel of Fortune to Community?


It was far from perfect, but in more ways than one, this was a more believable progression from The Opportunist and Dirty Red than Thief for me. Sometimes I even felt the ghosts of Caleb and Olivia in Isaac and Senna. Their dynamic eerily reminiscent but also distinct: a woman broken by the world and the man who loves her ugly, jagged pieces, this time within a psychological thriller milieu. I really wasn’t invested in the whole mystery early on, despite it being this book’s take-off point. I was more interested in the complexity of both characters who were both strangers and non-strangers at the beginning of the story. My curiosity on who did it did eventually kick in once their backstory was satisfied and while I never really considered it as the driving force behind the plot, I found myself happy with how this was resolved. What others may read as anticlimactic, I’m inclined to interpret as not being the climax at all.


Because this wasn’t a book about a woman and a man who got abducted in the middle of nowhere after all. 

Senna was a bit of a painful character to experience. She has a lot of brambles entwined in the complex mess of her twigs and branches while her roots extend to depths of fathomless, unanswered whys. She’s an Emilie Autumn quote: “a terribly real thing in a terribly false world causing her so much pain.” She is all of us and none of us. 

She was a house with no windows.

There’s even an almost fantastical quality to her relationship with Isaac and her path to her truth with enough emotional textures and wistful pain worthy of Wong Kar-Wai. It was all very cinematic, with circumstances too unnatural and out there that didn’t quite fit with the truthiness it was trying to convey.

This has been a particular trademark of this author, of course, one that endeared me to the stories she weaved before. Ultimately, the themes of conditional and unconditional love were explored with exhaustive depth and complexity, but the twinge of disappointment over insta-love as the bottomline was undeniable from where I stand.


I also can’t help but notice some heavy handedness everywhere including the prose and dialogue. I’m hard-pressed to quote this book. There are just too many. It read like one sound bite after another, the subtext in the dialogue alone was relentlessly cryptic. And placed within a psychological thriller-slash-mystery, it just got too exhausting and monotonously depressing. A problem I’ve had before with Varian Krylov: there’s not enough room to let the story exhale for a moment, to contrast or to create space to fill up again with emotions. Melancholia bleeding into melancholia equals emotional fatigue.

It was in that monotony that I felt this book ultimately lost its grasp on me. Such that somewhere past the middle, the pieces only made sense within the context of that moment. But gaining some distance and perspective you lose sight of things, miss out certain details in the murky depths of depression, metaphors and subtext  and before you know it you're thinking of the the Chrysler Building fighting against a radically religious shrimp while a confused crystal bird looks on.

(Yes that was a gratuitously placed image, I just wanted to put that somewhere because revisiting my thoughts on this book was depressing enough.)

I really really wanted to fall in love with this because the sentiment was heartfelt and I liked the feeling of reading something that felt written with bone-rattling honesty and balls-to-the-wall passion without catering to anyone’s comfort zones. But the heaviness just fuzzed out some of its edge, robbing Mud Vein a bit of its brilliance. But in terms of direction and evolution from this author, this was a welcome comfort.