Set in Ankara, Turkey, Ece Temelkuran’s The Time of Mute Swans follows the lives of two children, Ali and Ayse, as they try to comprehend the changing world around them. Though separated by social standing, one poor and one well-to-do, both Ali and Ayse’s family embrace leftist political beliefs, which leaves both families vulnerable to threats from those who stand in opposition.
By alternating the perspective between Ali and Ayse, the story embodies a fable-like quality. Both children see the world in colorful idyllic imagery – a stark contrast to the brash reality both family’s live in. Temelkuran shows how personal lives were affected in the days leading up to the 1980 coup—neighbor turning against neighbor; people taking their own lives to avoid being tortured.
The Time of Mute Swans provides a compelling narrative with two captivating protagonists on a mission to save the swans. Ece Temelkuran’s first fiction novel is very much worth reading.