The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

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, resi...

Details The Ensemble

TitleThe Ensemble
Release DateMay 15th, 2018
GenreFiction, Contemporary, Music, Literary Fiction

Reviews The Ensemble

  • Thomas
    3.5 starsI liked this debut novel about four young musicians who come together to form the Van Ness Quartet. The group includes first violin Jana, their resilient and headstrong leader, second violin Brit, the consistent and sweet orphan, Henry on the viola, the prodigy who has gotten everything he wants in life, and Daniel playing cello, the oldest and angriest of the group. The Ensemble follows this chamber group's rocky start to its glorious h...
  • Rebecca Foster
    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 fa...
  • Jamie
    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.
  • Lauren Fanella
    4.5⭐ Stellar writing with such complex and rich characters and relationships. Blown away that this is a debut novel. Loved being immersed in this world of classical music. 4.5⭐️ Stellar writing with such complex and rich characters and relationships. Blown away that this is a debut novel. Loved being immersed in this world of classical music.
  • Kate
    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 aspiratio...
  • Susan
    I enjoyed this book and the story of four musicians. It is one of those books in which not much really happens but it spans many years and is a great character study. It was beautifully written. But I felt there were just parts my eyes would just skip over and that there was a lot of filler that got tedious. I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.
  • Katelyn
    Added: 4.5 stars. A few weeks later I still can't stop thinking about this book and I now love to watch YouTube videos of quartets.Wow. At first I didn't think I'd keep with this book, but I became completely immersed in Gabel's story of four musicians who form a quartet and then I couldn't put it down. She follows the quartet from conservatory to middle age as they grow and stretch in their professional and personal lives. Gabel shows how by nec...
  • Taryn Pierson
    While this is a little bit inside baseball and thus might not be as fun for those who didn't grow up playing a string instrument, I really liked it.
  • Lydia
    Friendship and relationships over decades- it reminds me of Meg Wolitzer's amazing THE INTERSTINGS centered around music vs camp.
  • Dana Blazsek
    Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.4 Stars-- This book, that spans years, moved at the perfect pace. Not too slow and not too fast. I was vested in all four characters fast. Each of them was likeable and unlikable in their own ways. But their likeableness outweighed their negative qualities. And though I liked them, I did not love them, which I think led to me giving four st...
  • Allie Rowbottom
    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, individua...
  • Danielle Lazarin
    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 ...
  • Kathi
    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'...
  • Sophia
    This novel blew me away. At first, I fell in love with it based on the cover, but by the end of the first narrative (each part is broken into narration by members of the quartet), I was head over heels for the group and the words Aja Gabel used to piece their lives together.I have no musical background, save for a semester in middle school playing trumpet so horrifically the director must have thought giving me last chair was generous. I have no ...
  • Sai
    I really enjoyed getting a look into an intense profession that I am not often privy to beyond experiencing performances. I’ve always wondered about the personalities of people who pursue orchestral careers, knowing how tough music can be, how repetitive it might be to play and practice, but also how music is connected to internal mood and what impact that has on having to perform. This book had a good balance with character reveals, a tempo (o...
  • Carrie
    I think the characters were developed beautifully. Though I didn't find any of them particularly likable, they had depth and complexity that revealed itself over the course of the book. The author's experience as a musician was evident and I really enjoyed the sections about the competitions and technical details. My biggest complaint was that I think the whole thing could have been shorter, and there was what seemed like a lot of extraneous, sem...
  • Cathy
    *ARCA wonderful peek into the life of a quartet. I find the concept of 4 acting as one such an interesting concept and heart wrenching at the same time. This is a gentle book to read. It isn’t a fast-paced thriller, and it isn’t an epic journey. This is very interesting story about interesting characters with a backdrop of music interpretation.
  • Hannah Simpson
    While the writing was lovely and strong a lot of what Gabel was trying to say got lost in technical musical terms. Also there wasn’t much of a plot. No driving narrative. Perhaps future efforts by Gabel will home her excellent writing while showing improvement in storytelling.
  • Brandon Gutermuth
    A brilliant, beautiful novel about what binds us together. These characters will stay with me forever.
  • Kristen Beverly
    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.
  • Janelle
    Review to come
  • Irene
    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!
  • Jenn
    Read via a Netgalley ARCI really, really liked this, despite having like NO musical knowledge. Everything about it was just so interesting!
  • Rachel Watkins
    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.
  • Sonia Reppe
    Four members of a competitive string quartet share good times and bad, and become like a family. Spanning grad school to mid-life, from California to NYC (and back), with flashbacks and the multiple viewpoints between the four players, the plot could've been tighter, but Gabel writes well-drawn characters and engaging vignettes. Gabel's novel shows how having a career as a string quartet player means everyone in the quartet affects each others' l...
  • Liz
    The Van Ness String Quartet is a young group studying at the Conservatory in San Francisco. The two women and two men devote their lives to perfecting their skill and building a career in the highly competitive, ever decreasing world of classical music performance. This novel describes the musicians' professional and personal lives, how the closeness of working together spills over and sometimes threatens to derail them.Aja Gabel writes informati...
  • Julie Anna
    I was sent a copy of this book as a part of a Goodreads giveaway.The Ensemble is a story about the lives of the four members of the Van Ness string quartet, and the depths of their relationships with each other and those around them. It's a book for musicians and non-musicians alike, but musicians will definitely appreciate this one more - not just for the writing and musical terms, but also for the dynamics of the quartet of itself. As someone w...