Book Club Party: The Thirteenth Tale

Book Club Party: The Thirteenth Tale

Turn your average book club into an extraordinary event! Studio 5
contributor Teri Harmon shows how you can take a book, and turn it into
an amazing party by pulling ideas directly from the book that translate into
food, décor, invites, favors and more.

A Fabulous Book Club:

Friends huddle together, seated on couches and folding chairs. The scent
of a special culinary delight and the sparkle of laughter drift in the air.
Smiles pass around the room, and on each lap rests a book. It’s book club
night! A book club is about four things: bringing books to life, making
reading enjoyable, brining friends together and having another excuse to
throw a fabulous party.

Book Description – “The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield:

Reminiscent of favorite gothic novels “Jane Eyre” and “Rebecca”, “The
Thirteenth Tale” is the perfect book for your first Fall book club. Beautifully
written and perfectly crafted, this mystery will keep you reading late into
the night, thinking about the characters long after the last page and
excited to discuss it with your friends.

Margaret Lea, a biographer, spends her time writing about other people’s
lives and helping her father at his antiquarian bookshop. One night she
opens a letter from the famous fiction writer, Vida Winter, who has fallen
gravely ill and wishes, at last, to tell the true story of her life, something
she has kept hidden despite her ample fame. Margaret agrees and soon
finds herself lost in the mystery of Vida’s troubled past and fighting to
reconcile the demons of her own. Set in England, in magnificent estates
and mysterious topiary gardens, you too will feel like you’ve gone back in

Book Discussion:

An integral part of any book club is, of course, talking about the book. This
book includes a discussion guide with questions and an interview with the
author in the back. Choose five to eight good ones to guide the discussion.
You may also want to give a short presentation on the book includingfacts
about its success, information from author interviews, etc.


Color scheme: I used gold and maroon, with green accents – taken from
book cover.

Because this book is about books and set in libraries and bookstores, the
easiest way to create the perfect atmosphere for club is to decorate with
books. Take all the books in your house (or at least a lot of them) and stack
and lay open all over the room where your club will meet. Put votive or tea
light candles on top of the stacks. When your friends walk in they will know
it’s a night to celebrate books. And this doesn’t cost a cent.

Add a framedpicture or pictures of topiary gardens, the English Moors or
old English estates. Find a high resolution pictureon the internet and then
print it at your favorite photo printer. I used Costco and the 11 x 14 print
cost $2.99.

To make things feel even more English, place tea cups on the coffee table,
end tables or the book stacks. You may want to fillthe cups with yummy
mints for your guests to take after eating. If you don’t own any tea cups,
check out thrift stores. I found mine at The Assistance League Thrift Store,
2040 E. 3300 South, Salt Lake City. Together the two I purchased were $6.

Invites and Favors:

These invites represent a catastrophic fire and an importantlibrary in the
book. The invites look like they have been burned and they also look old
and English.

Go to the DI or other thrift store and find an old, yellowed book (mine cost
$2 from the DI). Cut pages from the book and then carefully tear the edges
all around to the desired size. Darken the edges with a chalk stamp pad.
Print your invite information on a nearly transparent gold vellum or similar
paper. Rip the edges of this paper and darken with chalk. Glue to book

If you want to add the envelope sealing wax stamp, the wax and seals can
be purchased at Tabula Rasa at Trolley Square in Salt Lake or ordered on-
line. The wax stick I bought was $5 and the seal $15.

For a fun favor, that represents the main character Margaret, who always
writes with freshly sharpened pencils, put together the following:

Buy good, old fashioned #2 pencils at any store – ones with gold tops
preferred if sticking with suggested color scheme. I got a package of 10
from Wal-Mart for $1.44. With a pretty maroon ribbon, tie together three
pencils and your favorite quote from the book. Make the quote paper in the
exact same way as invites, only smaller. Punch a hole in the upper corner to
thread ribbon through.I sealed this with wax as well.

Suggested quote: “: “I still believe in stories. I still forget myself when I am
in the middle of a good book.” Margaret, pg. 32.

Door Prizes:

If you’d like to include some kind of door prize or give-away for your
guests the perfect one for this club is a copy of “Jane Eyre” and/or
“Rebecca”. Both these books are mentioned in “The Thirteenth Tale” and
“Jane Eyre” plays a subtle symbolic role. Tie a ribbon around the book(s) or
wrap in a pretty paper. To win the book(s) a guest must correctly answer an
obscure trivia question from “The Thirteenth Tale”. Hostess decides on the
question(s). Such as, “What is the name of Miss Winter’s cat?” Answer: Not
telling – you have to read the book.

A paperback copy of these books is about $5 – 10, depending on where
you buy it.


I like to keep book club food very simple, but very tasty. Sticking with the
English theme I suggest tea sandwiches, hot chocolate and a bundt cake.


These are so easy, but look so fancy – and so English. On two slices of
white bread spread mayo and then layer ham, cheddar cheese and pickles.
When sandwich is assembled trim off the crusts and then cut into two
triangles or three small rectangles. Serve on a platter, appetizer style, as
people arrive. Any combination can be used for these sandwiches: roast
beef and horseradish, smoked salmon and cream cheese, mayo and
cucumber, etc.

Hot Chocolate:

Maragaret loves hot cocoa and since the weather is turning colder, hot
chocolate is the perfect beverage to serve. To make things super easy I buy
the 2% chocolate milk from Costco ($2-3 a gallon), pour into a large pot
and heat on the stove. Ladle into mugs and serve. Everyone loves it; it’s
creamy and delicious. I serve mine in a set of white mugs I purchased at
IKEA, $0.99 each. For extra flare tie gold or maroon ribbon on the handle
of the mugs.

Bundt cake:

One of the characters in the book, Aurelius, is a master baker and is always
making some decadent treat for Margaret. Bundt cakes feel very fancy and
this almond poppy seed cake with orange glaze is incredible
delicious.Recipe from

2 1/2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 1/8 c. oil
3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 c. milk
1 1/2 tsp. poppy seeds

1 1/2 tsp. each almond, butter & vanilla flavoring

3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. orange juice
1/2 tsp. each almond, butter & vanilla flavoring

Cream together sugar, eggs and oil. Alternate dry ingredients with milk and
beat 2 minutes. Pour in greased bundt pan or 5 small loaf pans. Bake at
350 degrees for 45 minutes. Pour glaze over cake while still warm.
Notes: I added 2 tsp poppy seeds and omitted the butter flavoring. Make
sure to spray your bundt pan with the cooking spray that has flour in it.
When cake is finished baking let it cool for at least 10 minutes and then
carefully turn out onto serving plate. Top with glaze.

You can find more ideas from Teri at

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