- “The Ensemble” by Aja Gabel
- Contemporary Fiction
- Listened to the audiobook
- 4/5 stars
- Finished November 23, 2019
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.
I’m not sure why I was hesitant to like this book. I think it was because I saw the average rating on GoodReads and so I thought it would just be one of those books that I got through, gave it three stars and moved on. For the first time, I weirdly felt pressured to not be crazy about a book. While I wasn’t obsessed with this book, I didn’t hate it, and in fact, found myself very much invested in the lives of these characters, probably because the narrator of the audio was so amazing.
This book follows a quartet through their life, and while this book isn’t fast paced or full of twists and turns, it’s a calming, realistic look at how friendships grow and change, about how your perspective on things change throughout life and it felt so real. I really felt like I knew these characters and I immediately wanted to google and find them playing pieces. The story is told from all four perspectives, but in the third person, and sometimes a chapter from their significant others. I really enjoyed this book, it was a nice calming change from what I normally read, and listened to it in an effort to read more “adult” books, and was quite happy with my decision to do so. Don’t go into this book expecting earth shattering revelations, but it is a nice calming book that I feel like would be great for night time reading or on a porch while it rains.
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