Rose Cafe

Mitchell, John Hanson. The Rose Cafe: Love and War in Corsica. Emeryville, CA: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2007.

As a young adult, John Hanson Mitchell found himself on the island of Corsica with absolutely no agenda other than to work in a cafe in order to watch and listen to the people around him. As a dishwasher in the Rose Cafe he had the opportunity to mingle with the guests and learn their life stories. Forty years later he writes about his experiences, describing Corsica as otherworldly and mysterious; hinting at zombies and shadowy characters. While there isn’t a standard plot to Rose Cafe, Mitchell does an amazing job not only describing the people he met, but bringing the island’s history to life. Because he was on the island in the early 60s, World War II was still fresh in a lot of people’s minds. Mitchell himself was “in hiding” to avoid the draft.

Lines I liked, “In the end, I fell into a strange, perhaps unhealthy, lethargy at the Rose Cafe” (p 5). That pretty much sums up how Mitchell ended up working (illegally) at the Rose Cafe as a pot washer/fish cleaner.
Another line I could relate to on several levels, “The wind undid people, it was said” (p 21). Amen to that.

Reason read: April is National Food Month. I thought reading about a cafe on the island of Corsica would involve some food. Not really. Mitchell was a fish cleaner, but that’s about it.

Author fact: John has his own website here. I don’t know what I was expecting when I found it (because I just knew he would have a site) but that wasn’t it. It hasn’t been updated in a few years.

Book trivia: Rose Cafe doesn’t contain any pictures. Mitchell describes the landscape beautifully but I would have loved seeing his views, especially his view from the cottage he stayed in.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Corsica” (p 72). Yup. Simple as that.

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