Book Club Resources
Here are some resources I hope you find useful in planning your book club’s discussion of Our Darkest Night. I’ve included a text-only version as well as larger downloadable PDFs for the images here that you are welcome to print out and distribute to your friends. I hope you have a wonderful time and thank you for choosing Our Darkest Night for your book club!
• Jennifer has said that when she first outlined the book, she was certain that Nico would die in the scene in the piazza. Only later did she change her mind — and then it took her weeks of research to find a plausible way for him to survive. Would you have liked a version of Our Darkest Night in which Nico died? Or did you need that happy ending?
• Do you agree with the author’s decision to fictionalize elements of the story she discovered about Father Stocco and San Zenone? Or would you have preferred a novel set in the real San Zenone instead?
• Why do you think novels set in WWII have become SO popular? What about them resonates so strongly with today’s readers?
• If you could pick one character from this story to have a book of their own, who would it be?
• Do you have any stories from your own family history that deserve a novel of their own?
Suggestions for Food, Libations, and Decor
• cheese and charcuterie platter with an assortment of Italian cheeses (pecorino, gorgonzola, marinated bocconcini), cured meats (salami, prosciutto), pickled vegetables (artichoke hearts, peperoncini, olives), walnuts or almonds, breadsticks, fig preserves, honey
• prepared polenta, sliced and grilled, topped with goat cheese and finely chopped sundried tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil and a few drops of balsamic vinegar
• individual servings of tiramisu or flourless chocolate-hazelnut cake
• Mezzo Ciel cocktail (see recipe below)
• Prosecco (made in the Veneto!)
• Sparkling water with blood orange juice and raspberries to garnish
Ideas for Decor
• simple grocery-store flowers such as mums or carnations, stems clipped short, arranged in empty jam jars
• white napkins tied with red and green ribbons
• tea lights set in low bowls or jars filled with coffee beans
The Mezzo Ciel Cocktail
In Bassano del Grappa in northern Italy, an ancient wooden bridge designed by Palladio is the best-known landmark. At either end of the bridge are small tavernas, their sole offering a local drink known as the Mezzo Mezzo. Made primarily of grappa brandy, it is deliciously bitter (thanks to rhubarb extract) and strong enough to fell a lumberjack. You’ll have to go to Bassano to partake of a true Mezzo Mezzo, so instead I offer a compromise: the Mezzo Ciel. Named after the fictional village where Our Darkest Night takes place, this take on the classic Boulevardier cocktail is sweet yet bitter, strong yet smooth, and the perfect aperitif before a dinner focused on Northern Italian cuisine.
1 ounce grappa brandy
¾ ounce sweet (red) vermouth
¾ ounce Campari
A dash of Angostura bitters
A twist of orange peel
A maraschino cherry (optional)
Add the grappa, sweet vermouth, Campari and bitters to a cocktail shaker. Add sufficient ice to just submerge the contents. Shake vigorously until well chilled, about thirty seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass, allowing one or two pieces of ice to join the liquor. Garnish with a twist of orange peel and a maraschino cherry (optional). If you find Campari too bitter, substitute with Aperol.