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

  • Diane S ☔
    A while back I decided to quit reading most of the summarys posted for books. The reason I stopped doing this is that I felt too much of the book was being given away. I do, however, read the first paragraph of these summarys, just to get a general idea of the book. I was drawn to this one because it stated it was an addictive read, plus it was about music, and seemed a little different from that which I usually read. Surprisingly enough I did fi...
  • Elyse Walters
    Audiobook...narrated by the wonderful *Rebecca Lowman*.Author Aja Gabel completely won me over......A pitch-perfect debut.It’s filled with sharp observations about the choices one makes between love, work, and friendships. The interrelationships between Brit, Daniel, Jana, & Henry...members of the string quartet...and their outside relationships were complicated- yet that’s what made the book interesting. “The Ensemble” reminds me a littl...
  • Victoria
    This is a remarkable debut as much for its portrayal of ambitious musicians in the world of classical music, as it is for its depiction of growing into adulthood within that rarified world. I was surprised at how addicting I found the stories of these four friends and how captivated I became with the music they were creating. With no musical inclination whatsoever--unless you count baton twirling with the marching band--I was immersed in every no...
  • 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...
  • Jennifer Blankfein
    The Ensemble is a great summer read – a wonderful debut about four quartet musicians and their lives together from right out of school to adulthood – what they gave up and what they earned, the love they developed and the family they created. The Van Ness Quartet consists of Jana, first violinist and leader, Brit, the quiet, second violinist, Daniel the older cellist and playboy, and Henry the violist prodigy. Author Aja Gabel skillfully link...
  • Taryn Pierson
    If you grew up playing a string instrument, The Ensemble will bring that dusty rosin smell right back to you. You probably knew people like Brit, Henry, Daniel, and Jana, the four characters who make up the titular string quartet--I know I did. Even if you’ve never spent any time with a bow in your hand, though, I predict you’ll get sucked into the cutthroat yet pristinely classy world of elite musicians. This is the kind of book where the sh...
  • Katie Avagliano
    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...
  • Fareya
    The Ensemble is a gorgeously written contemporary about four very different people brought together by the common dream of being recognized in the field of classical music. With excellent character development and an insightful portrayal of the intricate relationship shared by quartet musicians, Aja Gabel has woven a beautiful story about what it is like to be a professional classical music player and part of a quartet for almost two decades. Alt...
  • Dianne
    Nicely done debut novel about a classical string quartet that spans the sixteen years following their graduate school recital to their last concert together. It's a coming of age story, with a musical twist.The chapters alternate between each musician - Jana (first violin), Britt (second violin), Henry (viola) and Daniel (cello) - and one spouse, Kimiko. Each of the characters have their own backstories, flaws, foibles and differing levels of tal...
  • Rebecca
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Traci at The Stacks
    This is totally not my kind of book but I actually enjoyed it. It is Sorkin like in the characters ability to articulate extreme self awareness. It is also greys anatomy like in the intense interpersonal relationships. So parr’s were way too slow for me, but I am over all pleasantly surprised with this book.
  • Rod-Kelly Hines
    2.5 Stars...The Ensemble's premise is interesting enough: a story about the inner lives of the members of the Van Ness String Quartet from 1994-2009. However, this novel suffered from a great deal of technical weakness. There's a certain lack of rhythm that makes for pretty slow reading for a novel with only 330 pages. (I've been noticing this lack of rhythm in a lot of debut novels lately!) I felt so distanced from the main characters, and ironi...
  • Mollie Reads
    This book was overhyped for me, but I was impressed by the beautiful prose. While there was certainly a lot of emotion and complex relationships to tap into, I didn't always connect with that emotion, and I didn't really care about the characters. There were a few passages/quotes I loved, and I can appreciate the musical details, which were lovely. But it did lag for me at times. I haven't been this conflicted about my feelings for a book since T...
  • Janelle
    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 mus...
  • Deborah Stevens
    I thoroughly enjoyed entering the unknown-to-me world of high level classical musicians. The author did a great job of both world building and character development. Beautiful descriptive writing.
  • Joanie
    [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.]^ written so, so long ago and yes it did deliver. it took me some time to love it but the characters grew a...
  • Readingbringsjoy
    Thank you @riverheadbooks for providing me with a free review copyThe Ensemble was a book that took me a very long time to finish. For the first half I was expecting a completely different story line and pacing, and because I went into with the wrong idea I could not get into the story or feel invested in the characters. Once I figured out that the book was more about the friendship of four people who play in a musical quartet then about the behi...
  • Fornia
    everyone kisses everyone but no one cares
  • Matthew
    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 typic...
  • Kari Ann Sweeney
    This cover is positively swoon worthy- right? Gorgeous!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀This novel follows the four members of a chamber ensemble over the course of their lives and careers. It was truly a study in character and relationships. It was a unique example of how expectations and dreams can become intertwined. How friends/colleagues can start to feel like family. I thought the writing was stunning.
  • 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...
  • Carol (Reading Ladies)
    3.5 starsThe 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 ...
  • 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 ...
  • 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...