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
This is a quiet, character driven book. Beautifully written, will stick with me.
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 ...more
A brilliant, beautiful novel about what binds us together. These characters will stay with me forever.
I can see why this book is popular. It’s beautifully written even to those who don’t know a thing about music (me!) but I just personally need more action or drama in my books, I felt it moved pretty slow. Had it been about 100 pages shorter I might have given it 4 Stars.
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
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.
It pains me to say this, because I SHOULD have loved this book. I play the violin. I loved playing chamber music in string quartets. This book is on most summer reading lists for 2018. But I quit it on page 150. The main characters are selfish and neurotic and cynical; they didn't even exhibit real friendship (in the pages I read). Even the descriptions of the music, instruments and performances fell flat for me. I have learned my lesson after The Nest; any book in which the characters exhibit z ...more
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 stars instead of five.
That being said, the story lin ...more