The Ensemble (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

This is a totally captivating debut novel about a string quartet. Henry, Jana, Brit, and Daniel all have different reasons for not pursuing a more lucrative and rewarding solo career - they're drawn to something they can only find (or create) inside the tense, closed structure of the quartet. The behind the scenes look (Gabel was a professional cellist herself) into the ruthless world of high-level classical musicians and the physical toll of constant performance is fascinating for the curious reader, but as their relationships and careers grow and change over the years, The Ensemble's surprising focus is the amount of emotional work it takes to maintain a stable relationship between four people. The truly compelling interplay is what happens inside the theater of interpersonal dynamics between each member of the quartet, something that becomes just as practiced and just as necessary to the quartet's survival as what happens on stage.

— From Christina


"Pitch-perfect." --People

"You won't be able to quit these characters." --goop

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.

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.

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780735214767
ISBN-10: 073521476X
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: May 15th, 2018
Pages: 352
Language: English