- Source:Booklist; 12/15/2018, Vol. 115 Issue 8, p25-44, 20p, 57 Color Photographs, 1 Black and White Photograph
- Document Type:Book Review
- Publication Information:American Library Association / Booklist Publications
- Subject Terms:
Booklist Reviews 2018 May #1
*Starred Review* Michael Tilson, the music director of the San Francisco Symphony, calls the great symphonies architectures of time encapsulating the insights of a lifetime; they are astonishing works that span anger and pure joy. This description also applies to former cellist Gabel's stunningly resonant debut performance. Her novel runs the gamut of human emotions, from envy to sorrow, joy, pain, terror, and frustration, as it follows the lives of the talented musicians, Jana, Brit, Daniel, and Henry, in a string quartet, the Van Ness. With remarkable assurance, Gabel takes the four through their shaky early performances and expertly ties their individual and collective lives together with generous doses of empathy. The singular motif that rises above all else is the encroachment of time, the ways in which we are forced to fine tune our lives to a pitch we can make peace with. "Time looked different when you were young, and whatever foolishness you engaged in was undiluted—there was always the possibility that the next promised moment would carry you somewhere else, always the possibility of more flames, more beats, more life. Time, when you were older, was something different, irregular." A virtuoso performance. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2018 March #1
It's the 1990s, and four up-and-coming musicians at a San Francisco conservatory decide to forgo solo careers in favor of forming a string quartet. For Jana, the driven and motivated first violin, it's the realization that she's always been most engaged and creatively challenged when playing with others. Henry, a childhood viola prodigy, is compelled by his loyalty and deep friendship with Jana. Brit, the sweet and sympathetic second violin, feels like she wasted her time attending a "regular college" instead of a music school. The cellist, Daniel, nearly 30, has been toiling laboriously, waiting for the stars to align. Gabel's first novel explores the ups and downs of their chamber group, the Van Ness Quartet, as their relationships and talents grow and mature. Each character is fully developed, each action and emotion is believable and relatable.
PW Reviews 2018 March #2
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 (Jana and Henry, Daniel and Brit) 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 (Jana incurs Henry's jealousy when she sleeps with another violinist), 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.Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.