The Ensemble unfolds like a piece of beautiful music, at an even pace with highs and lows and a stunning finish. It's a simple story, following four friends who form a classical music quartet, and the lives they lead together and apart. But Gabel's writing talent and intelligence elevate this debut to an epic at both a micro and macro level — I was completely consumed! Recommended By Lauren P., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
"A riveting look inside the world of classical musicians and an intimate study of friendships." — Marie Claire
The addictive novel about four young friends navigating the cutthroat world of classical music and their complex relationships with each other, as ambition, passion, and love intertwine over the course of their lives.
Jana. Brit. Daniel. Henry. They would never have been friends if they hadn’t needed each other. They would never have found each other except for the art which drew them together. They would never have become family without their love for the music, for each other.
Brit is the second violinist, a beautiful and quiet orphan; on the viola is Henry, a prodigy who’s always had it easy; the cellist is Daniel, the oldest and an angry skeptic who sleeps around; and on first violin is Jana, their flinty, resilient leader. Together, they are the Van Ness Quartet. After the group’s youthful, rocky start, they experience devastating failure and wild success, heartbreak and marriage, triumph and loss, betrayal and enduring loyalty. They are always tied to each other – by career, by the intensity of their art, by the secrets they carry, by choosing each other over and over again.
Following these four unforgettable characters, Aja Gabel’s debut novel gives a riveting look into the high-stakes, cutthroat world of musicians, and of lives made in concert. 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.
"With uncommon clarity and empathy, Aja Gabel brings us inside the passionate, complex, and sometimes cutthroat intimacy that exists among the four members of a string quartet. A wise and powerful novel about love, life, and music. I didn’t want it to end." Maggie Shipstead, New York Times bestselling author of Seating Arrangements and Astonish Me
"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 Everywhere
"Gabel’s rich characters and melodic prose (fitting for a story about professional chamber musicians) make the novel a satisfying read. Comparisons to Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings are apt." Real Simple
"Stunningly resonant… With remarkable assurance, Gabel takes the four [characters] through their shaky early performances and expertly ties their individual and collective lives together with generous doses of empathy… A virutuoso performance." Booklist (Starred Review)
"This lilting, richly detailed story follows a group of friends — also a string quartet — as they grow and change together thoughout adulthood. Told from alternative perspectives, it gives us a riveting look inside the world of classical musicians and an intimate study of friendships." Marie Claire
About the Author
Aja 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.