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Penguin: Riverhead Books Spring 2019

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The Ensemble
A Novel
By (author): Aja Gabel
9780735214774 Paperback, Trade English General Trade FICTION / Women Jun 25, 2019
$22.00 CAD
Active 5.1 x 8 x 0.92 in 352 pages Riverhead Riverhead Books
The addictive novel about four young friends navigating a cutthroat world 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.

Story Locale: San Francisco, New York, Houston, mainly

MASSIVE BUZZ: The Ensemble has taken off with huge media coverage, and including an Indie Next Pick and Barnes & Noble Discover Pick. The book was on a ton of anticipated book lists including The Millions, Electric Literature, Huffington Post, Belletrist, Bookpage, and more. There have been numerous international pre-empts for rights.

AUTHOR’S BACKGROUND: Aja lived the life of this novel. She was a cellist and performed with a quartet. Her writing about music never feels academic, but conveys emotion and the complex relationships of the players.

BEHIND-THE-SCENES LOOK: You don’t have to love music to be enthralled by this behind-the-scenes world of competitive, high level musicians that many of us never see. Like you don’t have to love baseball to fall in love with the characters from The Art of Fielding.

BELOVED CHARACTERS: At the heart of The Ensemble are these four characters. You want to know what happens to them: do the ones who are sleeping together at the beginning of the book end up together? Will the prodigy betray them and forge out on a solo career? They’re flawed but human, likeable and complex; you’re rooting for them.

Aja Gabel’s writing has appeared in The Cut, 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.

Author Residence: Portland, OR and Los Angeles, CA

Author Hometown: Santa Clara, CA

Marketing: Social media and online promotion

Library promotions / Twitter / Instagram

Publicity: National print and online reviews and features

Author Website:

Author Social Media: Twitter: @AjaMaybe, Instagram: @AjaGabel

Praise for The Ensemble:

“In Ms. Gabel’s terrifically entertaining debut, the frictions of long-term friendships are woven into the ’webbed, collaborative endeavor’ of the quartet. Their music doesn’t transcend the mess of living; it testifies to it.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Pitch-perfect.” —People

“This lilting, richly detailed story follows a group of friends—also a string quartet—as they grow and change together thoughout adulthood. Told from alternative perspectives, it gives us a riveting look inside the world of classical musicians and an intimate study of friendships.”—Marie Claire

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