Tamil Tigress is an autobiography about a Niromi De Soyza’s (a pen name) life as a child soldier in Sri Lanka’s Civil War. On the cover there is a child soldier pointing a rifle at the camera, on the top of the book is Niromis strap line: ‘my story as a child soldier in Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war’. The book is about Niromi’s life and her experiences being influenced by the Tamil tigers and joining there fight for Tamil Elam. The book describes the run up to the war; about how Niromi had to move to the north as she was Tamil living in a Sinhala area; going to school and being influenced by the Tigers. Then she describes her life as a soldier with the Tigers and what they are doing for Tamil Elam ( Tamil peoples fight for their own independent state). She also describes how they are stopping the other militant movement. At the end of the book there is a brief but informative aftermath all about the other people and their futures.
There are a variety of characters in the book, the main person is obviously Niromi, who wrote the story and describes her experiences throughout the book. Another important character would be Ajanthi, Niromi’s best friend, who joined the Tigers with Niromi at the same time. They went to school together and are both Hindu-Christian. Murali, her friend, unit commander and the one that let her join the battle when the others wouldn’t let a woman join the Tigers. Roshan is a man who loves Niromi but as they are in the tigers they are not allowed to have a relationship with each other, whenever she was sad or felt lonely she would think of Roshan and smile. Akila (her good friend in the war), would be put on sentry duty with Niromi and made to protect the university, they later became close when they had to live in the jungle. Her sister, Shirani, and her Amma (mother) play a big role in the story as Niromi is always thinking about them and if she made the right decision joining the Tigers due to their upset of the loss of Niromi to the war. Her Appa (farther) and Appamamma (grandmother) are important in the build up to the war as Niromi lives with her, on her own, whilst her parents stay in the hill country waiting for an opportunity to move to Jaffna. Also there is Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam). Niromi met him on a variety of times and he always with a speech ready for the women,I think he has a lot of character and Niromi made the army officers sound kinder than what the western world thought they were. I really like the way Niromi humanises all the characters and shows that they are not just all heartless monsters seeking war, they are just good people doing a bad thing to help a cause . Don’t get me wrong the things the Tigers did to the people was horrific but the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force or as Niromi describes it the Indian People Killing Force) and Sri Lankan army did some terrible things as well.
This unique book has three main themes; the first being the build up to the war. Niromi writes about her young life when she still lived in the south and the Sinhala mobs attacked the Tamil businesses. She then describes moving up north to the Jaffna peninsula and living with her Appamamma. The book also describes Niromi and Ajanthi going to school and being influenced by the tigers. The second theme is her experiences in the war and how she copes with the perils and starvation she endures. The last theme is harder to notice and runs throughout the book and I would say it is the women in Sri Lankan society and how, at the time the book was set, are not as highly regarded as the men. She describes her culture and how she must not show affection to men and at the end of the book she speaks highly as Tamil women are being given more respect. I really like the themes of this book as it is easy to understand what Niromi is talking about and relate it to other parts in the book. She also touches on the subject is war right? She describes some the things the Tigers are doing to the other soldiers and the innocent.
The style of writing is a chronological recount with the exception of the start when it goes straight into the ambush. I enjoy this way of writing as it keeps me wanting to read the story as it is exiting and I want to know about the characters and what happened to lead up to this point. Niromi describes the scenes of the book in detail but not overdone like some books. It is quite a mature book as it described heartless murder and loss but if you are learning, or interested in guerrilla war and child soldiers I recommend this book. It has a fair reflection of the war, I know this as I have researched the dates and happenings, as it describes the murders of high officers and attacks in a way not positive but informative. I have read some other reviews and they say Tamil Tigress is a reliable factual source on the civil war, I agree with this. Although the focus is on the Tamil Tigers she does describe the life of young woman in Sri Lanka. The book is unique and I have not read many like it. The chapters are put together in sections describing just that one attack, march or important milestone in the war. The book gave an insight into the Tigers and really showed the thoughts of a guerrilla war army.
I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to someone trying to find something to read or would like to try something different. It has descriptions of places and is funny but really sad. By the end of the book you come to care for he characters even Prabhakaran as she describes them so well. I think Niromi is a great author and wrote this book very well. I have overall really loved this book for many reasons and think you will too.