Review: The Ensemble by Aja Gabel


The Ensemble by Aja Gabel will be available
tomorrow (May 15th)

Read my thoughts on this lyrical book!



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, resilient leader. Together, they are the Van Ness String Quartet.

In The Ensemble, each character picks up the melody, from the group’s youthful rocky start through to adulthood. As they navigate devastating failures and wild success, heartbreak and marriage, triumph and loss, betrayal and enduring loyalty, they are always tied together—by career, by the intensity of their art, by the secrets they carry together, and by choosing each other over and over again.

Following these four unforgettable characters, Aja Gabel’s debut novel gives a behind-the-scenes look into the highly competitive, mysterious world of high-level musicians. 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.








The Ensemble is the epitome of a character-driven book. I honestly don’t think I even knew how a character-driven book looked like until I read this book. It follows the life of four musicians for approximately sixteen years (hope I did my math right and I didn’t miss any dates), the ups and downs of their relationships and their career as a quartet. 

I enjoyed this book… at times. I enjoyed reading about certain characters (Brit and Daniel) more than I did others (Jana and Henry). Since it alternates points of view and I wasn’t a fan of some of the characters, I found myself skim reading a lot just to get to the more interesting parts (for me!). I also found myself skipping some parts because not much happens in the book. Of course, the characters grow up and live their lives and you get to know them and see how they change/don’t change during the journey and it is interesting but it doesn’t keep you at the edge of your seat or completely grips you (at least that didn’t happen to me).

In a nutshell, this is a beautifully written story about very real and raw characters. Even though I enjoyed some parts of it, I still feel like it wasn’t completely my kind of read but I’m happy I picked it up. I think that if you are a classical music fan or you play an instrument then you’ll enjoy this book way more than I did so please check it out if this sounds like something you might enjoy!


Massive thanks to Riverhead Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!


3 / 5 flowers


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