The Ensemble
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 who’s 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 group’s 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 together—by 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 Gabel’s 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.

The Ensemble Details

TitleThe Ensemble
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 15th, 2018
PublisherRiverhead
ISBN-139780735214767
Rating
GenreFiction, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Music, Novels, Adult, Relationships, Realistic Fiction, Womens, Adult Fiction

The Ensemble Review

  • Celeste Ng
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Jamie
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    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 - 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 - basically whenever I read something that felt a little too familiar and sent me away into my own memories. Sometimes I saw myself in these characters; sometimes I recognized friends or colleagues. The characters are drawn so realistically that I think this will be true even if you've never played an instrument, though. The way Aja Gabel (a former cellist) writes about music is truly stunning. She writes musically! Her writing style mimics the music she's describing. Her sentences read like phrases. It's everything I've ever aimed for when I write about music. Also, each of the four sections of the book begins with a list of three works for strings - if you've never heard of them, it won't hurt your reading experience at all, but if you HAVE, you're in for a treat. For example, it almost feels like a spoiler to say that Beethoven's C-sharp minor quartet is one of the ones listed for the third section. I highly recommend listening to the works described in the book, especially if you're unfamiliar with the Beethoven or the Shostakovich third quartet, both of which are referenced heavily. If, like me, you love books that follow multiple characters throughout their lives, this is a wonderful example of that kind of book. But if you're a musician, this book will resonate with you on an even deeper level.
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  • Lydia
    January 1, 1970
    Friendship and relationships over decades- it reminds me of Meg Wolitzer's amazing THE INTERSTINGS centered around music vs camp.
  • Allie Rowbottom
    January 1, 1970
    THE ENSEMBLE is a stunning debut, almost unbelievable in its range, lyricism and beauty. This book reminded me of character studies and coming of age novels like FATES AND FURIES and THE MARRIAGE PLOT, with the added complexity of a quartet of characters. Their entwined lives, drives and heartbreaks are set against the backdrop of the insular world of classical music, ultimately resulting in an epic meditation on competition, community, individuality and art, rendered by a writer whose talent is THE ENSEMBLE is a stunning debut, almost unbelievable in its range, lyricism and beauty. This book reminded me of character studies and coming of age novels like FATES AND FURIES and THE MARRIAGE PLOT, with the added complexity of a quartet of characters. Their entwined lives, drives and heartbreaks are set against the backdrop of the insular world of classical music, ultimately resulting in an epic meditation on competition, community, individuality and art, rendered by a writer whose talent is unmistakable.
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  • Joanie
    January 1, 1970
    If this could hook me in as much as the premise of it is hooking me in right now (I will buy a hardcover of this as a birthday present to myself oh my god), hello, new obsession. I never had the discipline or the talent to stick it with classical music beyond high school so I admire so much those who do. This novel could be perfect for me.
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  • Danielle Lazarin
    January 1, 1970
    Being in a quartet seems more difficult than being in a marriage. There is so much to hold together, so much work to be done, so many boundaries to delicately cross with people who ask you for everything and yet who you are tired of walking on eggshells with, so much unexpected bodily wear, so much unspoken and necessary love in its mere existence. I adored this book, wanted to return to it night after night, and am desperate for it to be out so I can talk to other people about it. I never grew Being in a quartet seems more difficult than being in a marriage. There is so much to hold together, so much work to be done, so many boundaries to delicately cross with people who ask you for everything and yet who you are tired of walking on eggshells with, so much unexpected bodily wear, so much unspoken and necessary love in its mere existence. I adored this book, wanted to return to it night after night, and am desperate for it to be out so I can talk to other people about it. I never grew bored with the descriptions of music or playing (I never made it past the recorder); those parts felt within reach and I suspect will mean a lot more to anyone who has played. I loved that Gabel was brave enough to give voice to all the characters, which can make a book uneven, but here just helped me understand what it might be like to be part of a larger unit that consumes you whole while still trying to live a life that is yours outside of it. Most of all, being close to the characters in turn reminded me how none of us get what we want, not exactly, that life is full of disappointments at our own hands and just because life is sometimes disappointing, but if you can find some sort of constancy, some people to rely on, even imperfectly, you can work toward something magical and beautiful and even some of the time, perfect.
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  • Kathi
    January 1, 1970
    The tempo and flow of this book really reminded me of A Little Life. The four friends, alternating chapters, from when they meet as kids to when they become older, etc.... but the subject matter was obviously quite different. I enjoyed learning about music and a topic I would not normally have had any knowledge about, and I loved the writing. I felt like I was supposed to learn something about life and love and relationships from this, but I don't know that I did.
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  • Kristen Beverly
    January 1, 1970
    4 lives are intertwined by music. It’s messy, beautiful and poetic, much like the writing in this book. As a musician, I loved reading about how their music and lives intersect.
  • Irene
    January 1, 1970
    It is such a pleasure to read a book like The Ensemble where your heart warms to characters as if they are acquaintances in your own life that slowly turn into friends. Gabel does an excellent job teetering between heartbreak and revelation, mapping the punctuated changes of people as they grow and love and learn from one another. A great book club read, beach read, rainy day read, or any day read!
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  • Jenn
    January 1, 1970
    Read via a Netgalley ARCI really, really liked this, despite having like NO musical knowledge. Everything about it was just so interesting!
  • Rachel Watkins
    January 1, 1970
    If you're a musician and play with others, you are part of an intimate relationship. THE ENSEMBLE is the story of a string quartet together for years that examines the connections each person has with the other. Aja Gabel's debut is lovely and I highly recommend listening to the pieces the quartet performs during each section of this beautiful novel.
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  • Kim McGee
    January 1, 1970
    This coming of age story follows the life and career of the four members of the Van Ness String Quartet. These young driven classically trained music students begin in college and we follow their lyrical story stopping at brief intermissions broken into important concerts in their lives. With lyrical magic their stories read like the music they play and the reader is introduced to the competitive, sometimes brutal life of a classical musician. From their first disaster of a concert to getting re This coming of age story follows the life and career of the four members of the Van Ness String Quartet. These young driven classically trained music students begin in college and we follow their lyrical story stopping at brief intermissions broken into important concerts in their lives. With lyrical magic their stories read like the music they play and the reader is introduced to the competitive, sometimes brutal life of a classical musician. From their first disaster of a concert to getting ready to pass the baton onto others, the four are hopelessly attached to each other. They love each other, envy their talent, fear their betrayal and feed off each other to produce magical music. Four individuals whose instrument speaks a language all their own, sometimes playing only for themselves but in the end they learn to act and play as one voice- the song of the heart. A literary "Mozart of the Jungle". Stunning debut, a virtuoso performance by a new talent that I am looking forward to hearing more of. My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.
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  • Brooke
    January 1, 1970
    BROOKE’S REVIEWAja Gabel’s lyrical novel, The Ensemble, follows the Van Ness Quartet from their time at the conservatory into their adult lives as professional musicians. Brit, Henry, Daniel, and Jana are as unique as the instruments they play, but they are inextricably tied together through their music and their choice to play together in the quartet. For musicians, former musicians, fans of Mozart in the Jungle, this novel is for you. It’s apparent that Gabel is a musician herself by the incre BROOKE’S REVIEWAja Gabel’s lyrical novel, The Ensemble, follows the Van Ness Quartet from their time at the conservatory into their adult lives as professional musicians. Brit, Henry, Daniel, and Jana are as unique as the instruments they play, but they are inextricably tied together through their music and their choice to play together in the quartet. For musicians, former musicians, fans of Mozart in the Jungle, this novel is for you. It’s apparent that Gabel is a musician herself by the incredible detail that the adds to her novel about the music; her descriptions soar off the page. The heart of this novel is about the relationships that exist between these four friends and the lengths to which they will go to feed their passion - music. One criticism would be that Gabel’s connection to her music and the characters makes the novel feel a bit dense at times. While an immensely enjoyable story, it could have benefited from a tighter edit. This one comes out in late May 2018. PRAISE“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.” —Celeste Ng, New York Times bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires EverywhereAUTHORAja Gabel’s writing has appeared in BOMB, The Kenyon Review, Glimmer Train, and elsewhere. A former cellist, she earned her B.A. at Wesleyan University, her MFA at the University of Virginia and has a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston. Aja has been the recipient of fellowships from the Sewanee Writers’’ Conference, Literary Arts Oregon, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, where she was a fellow in fiction. She currently lives in Los Angeles.Thanks to Edelweiss+ and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
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  • Sherwestonstec
    January 1, 1970
    I did enjoy this book! “Jana, Brit, Daniel, Henry. They never would have been friends if they hadn’t needed one another. They would never have found one another except for the art that drew them together. They would never have become family without their love for the music, for one another.” This is the story of four people who meet in their 20’s, it tells the stories of their struggles, love relationships, inner demons, basically life! It was well written and the characters were well developed I did enjoy this book! “Jana, Brit, Daniel, Henry. They never would have been friends if they hadn’t needed one another. They would never have found one another except for the art that drew them together. They would never have become family without their love for the music, for one another.” This is the story of four people who meet in their 20’s, it tells the stories of their struggles, love relationships, inner demons, basically life! It was well written and the characters were well developed! I recommend this book!
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  • Kelleyann
    January 1, 1970
    This was like The Secret History with a string quartet and a happy ending. Not as climactic for sure, but the writing and characters are so beautifully arranged and well executed. It was definitely a bit of a slow burner, not a lot dramatically happening plot-wise but I thought the relationship dynamics were super interesting.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars. I truly loved this and I hope it makes a big splash when it releases in May.
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