Did I think that reading The Ensemble by Aja Gabel might make me smarter? That culturally speaking it would be an education? Well, yes. When I lived in London my friend Mr. M and I would sometimes visit the Royal Festival Hall together to hear the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra play. We were both philistines when it came to classical music and so felt that we were doing something beyond our realm, experiencing something different, always hoping that this would be the concert that led us down a new path musically, frequently enjoying but never enough to actually make the shift.
The Ensemble focuses on a string quartet and follows the paths of the four musicians, their passions, and decisions. The truth is though, like too many of those concerts I went to years ago, I found this novel dull. The idea is clever, with the construct of the quartet neatly binding the characters together, but overall the story did little for me. There was nothing in it that, outside of the premise of what they did, was in anyway different or special. I’m not quite myself at the moment, following the death of my mother, and I think that must be the only reason that I kept reading. When we get knocked sideways there has to be hope that things get better and when life is so small, due the pandemic, we look for these signs in the small things we do, like reading a novel.
I feel like I should be elaborating about the characters, telling you something more about the story, but honestly, there’s almost nothing that stood out about it in any way. I think it would be fair to say that I hadn’t perhaps appreciated that there was a world in which people could make a decent income as part of a quartet, but beyond that, there wasn’t much to pull me in and enage me. It wasn’t hard to turn the pages, but I felt like non readers must feel, like I’m trying it but not getting anywhere.
All things considered, I think this is a novel to skip.