The Seasons of Trouble: Life Amid the Ruins of Sri Lanka’s Civil War

“Gripping and profoundly moving ... an astonishing feat of reportage.” – NPR Guide to 2014’s Great Reads

For three decades, Sri Lanka’s civil war tore communities apart. In 2009, the Sri Lankan army finally defeated the separatist Tamil Tigers guerrillas in a fierce battle that swept up about 300,000 civilians and killed more than 40,000. More than a million had been displaced by the conflict, and the resilient among them still dared to hope. But the next five years changed everything.

Rohini Mohan’s searing account of three lives caught up in the devastation looks beyond the heroism of wartime survival to reveal the creeping violence of the everyday. When city-bred Sarva is dragged off the streets by state forces, his middle-aged mother, Indra, searches for him through the labyrinthine Sri Lankan bureaucracy. Meanwhile, Mugil, a former child soldier, deserts the Tigers in the thick of war to protect her family.

Having survived, they struggle to live as the Sri Lankan state continues to attack minority Tamils and Muslims, frittering away the era of peace. Sarva flees the country, losing his way – and almost his life – in a bid for asylum. Mugil stays, breaking out of the refugee camp to rebuild her family and an ordinary life in the village she left as a girl. But in her tumultuous world, desires, plans, and people can be snatched away in a moment.

The Seasons of Trouble is a startling, brutal, yet beau­tifully written debut from a prize-winning journal­ist. It is a classic piece of reportage, five years in the making, and a trenchant, compassionate examina­tion of the corrosive effect of conflict on a people.


  • “[P]oetic ... a thoroughly absorbing book.”
  • The Seasons of Trouble is devastatingly good. Rohini Mohan’s intimately rendered account of the brutal end-game and unfinished aftermath of Sri Lanka’s civil war is breathtakingly well-told. By focusing on the lives of three Tamils and telling their stories in novelistic detail, Mohan has revealed a modern tragedy of truly epic proportions. Haunting and unforgettable.”
  • “Mohan captures a country of dueling narratives as irreconcilable as those of the Palestinians and the Israelis, of suspicions and betrayals instigated by an all-powerful security apparatus.”
  • “A remarkable feat of empathy. Mohan paints her characters with such emotional richness that it’s hard to believe the work is not a product of her imagination but of five years of painstaking reporting.”
  • “In large part a chronicle of war and its aftermath, Mohan’s impressive study is also a Kafkaesque story of survival in a society riven by ethnic tensions and mutual distrust.”
  • “Gripping and profoundly moving ... Rohini Mohan has produced an astonishing feat of reportage.”
  • “Governments seriously contemplating Sri Lanka’s model would be wise to read The Seasons of Trouble. It isn’t a traditional political study, but Mohan doesn’t intend it to be. Instead, by focusing intimately on the lives of three individuals—their daily struggles, the shared hurt and trauma—she has produced an ambitious, thoroughly engrossing work that informs the mind while simultaneously unsettling the heart.”
  • “Through the journeys and trials of Mugil and Sarava, in the period before and immediately after the civil war, Rohini Mohan has given us a glimpse into the lives of so many others who have also ended up on the losing side of Sri Lanka's civil war. Seasons of Trouble, though non-fiction, does what novels do best: it allows us into the hearts and minds of people who might be very different from us, but with whom we come to have a great empathy through inhabiting their lives.”
  • “A significant, though heartrending, account.”
  • “Using three lives—an abducted son, a searching mother, and a child soldier—Mohan gets close enough to show the unraveling of not only a people but individuals and families … Mohan combines years of superb journalism with a novelist’s touch to give a vividly brutal and beautiful look at humans surviving the still-violent aftermath of a civil war.”
  • “A penetrating account of the stories of Tamil survivors of the conflict.”


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  • Rohini Mohan's The Seasons of Trouble wins prestigious First Book Award

    Last week Rohini Mohan's The Seasons of Trouble won the Tata Literature Live! First Book Award for Nonfiction at the Mumbai Literary festival! This highly coveted prize is awarded to outstanding voices in Indian literature. 

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