The addictive debut novel about four young friends navigating the cutthroat world of music and their complex relationships with each other, as ambition, passion, and love intertwine over the course of their lives.Brit is the second violinist, a beautiful and quiet orphan; the viola is Henry, a prodigy whos always had it easy; the cellist is Daniel, the oldest, the angry skeptic who sleeps around; and on first violin is Jana, their flinty, resilient leader. Together, they are the Van Ness String Quartet.In The Ensemble, each character picks up the melody, from the groups youthful rocky start through to adulthood. As they navigate devastating failures and wild success, heartbreak and marriage, triumph and loss, betrayal and enduring loyalty, they are always tied togetherby career, by the intensity of their art, by the secrets they carry together, and by choosing each other over and over again.Following these four unforgettable characters, Aja Gabels debut novel gives a behind-the-scenes look into the highly competitive, mysterious world of high-level musicians. The story of Brit and Henry and Daniel and Jana, The Ensemble is a heart-skipping portrait of ambition, friendship, and the tenderness of youth....
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The Ensemble Reviews
I loved this. I loved it I loved it. Never have I read such glorious writing about music and about musicians. I want to say something poetic about how the author builds the four characters into a harmony even when they're pushing against one another in dissonance, and how it's about a quartet but it reads like a symphony but I'll just say that I loved it and leave it there.
Thank you so much Riverhead Books for my free copy of THE ENSEMBLE by Aja Gabel - all opinions are my own.
This lovely debut novel follows four musicians from graduate school through to their life in the Van Ness String Quartet. The narrative is the quartet’s story as a whole, but also each individual story of Jana, Henry, Daniel, and Brit. The book is divided into four sections and each section is headed with three famous works of classical music for strings. I thought that was a really nice tou ...more
The Ensemble follows the lives of four young members of a chamber quartet as they navigate the world of competitive classical music, ambition, relationships, success, failure, and love. Readers will meet Jana, first violin, aloof, resilient, and fearless leader; Brit, second violin, beautiful, idealistic, and quiet orphan; Daniel, cello, angry, oldest, and most adrift; and Henry, viola, an easy-going prodigy who has always lived an easy and blessed life. This is a character driven story ...more
Okay. Okay. I was looking forward to reading this for months because I thought it would be like “The Interestings.” It’s not. I was about twenty pages in before I flipped to the author bio to see if Gabel had graduated from a writing program. She had. It’s a book that reminds me of everything I don’t like about literary fiction, MFA program fiction - you can’t even get into the story, loose as it is, without getting mired in backstory and interiority. It’s a book that’s supposedly about an ensem ...more
In May 1994, the members of the Van Ness String Quartet are completing their final graduate recital at a San Francisco conservatory and preparing for the Esterhazy quartet competition in the Canadian Rockies. These four talented musicians – Jana, first violin; Brit, second violin; Henry, viola; and Daniel, cello – have no idea what the next 15 years will hold for them: a cross-country move, romances begun and lost, and career successes and failures. Drawing on her own history as a violinist and ...more
I think this will be my favorite book of the year! THE ENSEMBLE follows four musicians over a decade and a half, beginning with their string quartet debut in graduate school, and then dropping in at two- to four-year increments. The quartet's story (and their stories as individuals) is so familiar to anyone who has been seriously involved in classical music. As a former clarinetist (well, someone who still plays but with no professional aspirations), I took many pauses while reading this book - ...more
In the tradition of THE INTERESTINGS and THE SECRET HISTORY, THE ENSEMBLE teases apart the strands of an intense and long-lasting group friendship that both bolsters and binds its members. Aja Gabel's powerful debut offers a sensitive portrait of four young musicians forging their paths through life: sometimes at odds with each other, sometimes in harmony, but always inextricably linked by their shared pasts.
During the “Coda” of her debut, The Ensemble, author Aja Gabel writes:
“We weren’t yet full people, but we were required to pretend to be. We thought that together we could pretend to be until we were.”
It’s as concise a statement that could be made regarding the title characters that anchor Gabel’s novel, a string quartet that evolve as musicians yet never quite match this growth in seemingly all other aspects of life. It’s typical in most cutthroat professions, the pressure to succeed and the ...more