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Aja Gabel Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Ensemble (2018) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Aja Gabel is an American author literary fiction books best known for her novel The Ensemble featuring four characters Daniel, Brit, Jana, and Henry four people who wouldn’t have been friends if they had not needed each other.

Gabel has taught literature, fiction, and non-fiction at the University of Virginia, Sweet Briar College, Pacific University, and the University of Houston. She has also lectured in various community workshop organizations and writing conferences. She graduated from Wesleyan University with a BA and with an MFA from the University of Virginia and earned her PhD from the University of Houston. Gabel’s debut novel The Ensemble is an exceptional and entertaining literary debut, the disagreements – typical of lifelong friendships – are woven together with the “complex collaborative effort” of a string quartet. Music does not transcend the disaster of living; it attests it. It tells the story of four musicians.

Each one them has a story to tell and a secret to keep: Brit is the second violin, a beautiful and silent woman who carries her orphanage on her back. In the viola is Henry, a prodigy in music which has been undervalued because everything is effortless in life. The greatest of all is the cellist, Daniel, a skeptic who goes from one relationship to another, ignoring the emptiness he feels. And on the first violin is Jana, her persevering and brave leader, guiding the life of the quartet as if it were her masterpiece.

The Ensemble

Music is something that serves as a soundtrack to our lives, making the most mundane tasks in our lives manageable. Music is recognized by many as a universal language, one that connects people regardless of the color, culture, age or background. The folks who swear their life to creating those beautiful musical lines pledge to create an environment where people can communicate with no words.

Aja Gabel’s novel presents the lives of budding musicians who make the musician pledge together. In this heart-skipping and well-woven novel, we meet Daniel, Brit, Jana, and Henry. They are four people who would have never been friends if they didn’t need each other. They wouldn’t have become a family was it not for their love for music.

Brit is a violinist, a beautiful and quiet orphan; Henry plays viola, the cellist is Daniel and Jana is the first violist.

Gabel is strong throughout the narrative, not only showcasing her music knowledge but also her passion for crafting beautiful lyrics. As a cellist, she shows to the world the mind of a musician and the struggles and success which often accompanies musical career.

The story follows the group’s commonly known as Van Ness String Quartet 25 year career right from their first meeting in 1992 to one of the original member of the group leaving the band in 2007.

The point of view switches from different characters throughout the novel allowing the readers to get to know better each of the members of the band. Each member has a unique voice, and while there seem to be no similarities between the four, they are all united by their passion for music.
The plot is divided into four different sections of the group’s career. At the start of the four sections, there is a list of the pieces that the group will perform. So this allows the reader to listen to the music that’s each section refers to before reading thus resulting in a truly unique reading experience. As the reader, you’ll be able to physically hear some of the examples from the page and interpret the music alongside the characters.

While the four have a strong union on the stage, their relationships backstage is something that will make you question about their future. There’s an on-and-off relationship between Daniel and Britt, then the pressures for a solo career for Henry and the anxiety of someone exiting the group- all these providing a sense of uncertainty. But despite all these challenges, the group is united by their music and career.

As the reader, it’s fascinating to see how each member interprets each peace and how they all differ depending on their emotions and role in the group. All in all, there’s a strong musical analysis of each piece in the story and the plot is incredibly intelligent and insightful.

One of the fascinating aspects of The Ensemble is not just about the music, but the emotions associated with music and the importance of these emotions in one’s life. More than the group’s musical life, as the reader you’ll be invested in the wellbeing of each member and see how they transform over 25 years.

According to an interview published online, Aja Gabel stated that she worked real-life personality traits into her four characters. She was inspired by her childhood and teenage years when she was so much into music. She was involved in a group of musical friends from different schools united by music.
The pieces featured in each section are a representation of the mood of that specific section. For instance, in the first section, they are all struggling with transitioning from student life to professional life and Dvorak American is an excellent example of that bubble. In the second section, there is personal transition and tension and no composer best illustrates that than Shostakovich.

Music has changed over the years, and so have the musicians, but the reasons why music bands spit seems the same. The intricate interpersonal dynamics between bands can be tough to navigate for both fresh artists and successful bands. And even though we are living in an unparallel time in music things works and seem nothing as they did years ago, there is nothing new when it comes to the reasons why bands members throw in the towel. Aja Gabel has explored these interpersonal conflicts facing The Quartets, how they affect each member of the band and at the same time provide reasons for them to work together for more than two decades. The Ensemble is a story about musician as well as a tribute to the music that defines their lives.

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