"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.
Gabel's wonderful debut centers on the talented members of the Van Ness String Quartet over the course of the 18 event-filled years following 1994. There's Jana, violin 1, the natural leader; Henry, viola, the prodigy; Daniel, cello, the charming one who brings intensity to the group; and Brit, violin 2, the unknown quantity. They've slept with one another and are battered and bruised by the competition circuit. But, over the years, they stay together in the face of professional temptations (Henry is encouraged to make a solo recital debut), dueling egos , rivalries (Daniel is intimidated by the members of a younger quartet), injuries, and bad judgment. Along the way, they also manage to become husbands, wives, and parents. But despite all these distractions, the love of making music is what keeps Jana and the others imperfectly bound to one another. Seldom has a novel managed to better dramatize the particular pressures that make up the life of a professional musician, from the physical pain of contorting limbs over a long period of time to the emotional stress of constantly making adjustments to the changing temperaments of partners. Readers will come away with a renewed appreciation for things people usually take for granted when listening to music. The four characters are individually memorable, but as a quartet they're unforgettable.
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A beautifully woven story