4/5 stars on Goodreads
I recently read Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge by Cliff Simon (in collaboration with Loren Stephens) for France Book Tours. I went into this not knowing who Cliff Simon might be, and only a vague understanding of what Moulin Rouge is (some of which, I must admit, was due to the musical of the same name). However, a brief glance through the first chapter in the memoir on Amazon had me convinced that this could be an interesting read. And it was.
Paris Nights has a crisp, no-nonsense tone about it that appears to echo the personality of Cliff Simon. It was very to the point, and matter-of-fact -- an element I enjoyed very much whilst reading this memoir. It begins with Simon's dissatisfaction with the way his life is going at the age of twenty-six, when he gets a call from a good friend of his who is a dancer at the Moulin Rouge. Learning that there is a spot for him among the Moulin Rouge dancers, Simon sells everything he has and makes a beeline for Paris.
However, before his memoirs of Paris begin, we are taken back in time to when he was a boy, and we are given something of a crash course in the making of Cliff Simon -- his family, his interests, his ambitions, and his choices that finally get him to where he is -- Moulin Rouge. I enjoyed every bit of this memoir, and I must admit to losing track of time because, after a really long while, I was able to finish a book in just one day!
This memoir does portray a lifestyle that is foreign to me and, for the most part, goes against my moral fibre. But because the telling is so frank and open, one cannot find fault with it -- after all, it is a memoir; it has all happened already for better or for worse. It was, also, in many ways an eye-opener to me. We are given a glimpse of what lies under the glitter of Paris, and it is quite dark down there.
We are also given brief but strong glimpses of arpatheid in South Africa (Simon's home country), and Simon's opinion of it is firm and unafraid. His love for his country is quite obvious from start to finish of the memoir, and also the effects of the struggle in the country during the '80s & '90s.
I think, at the end of this reading, I was pleased that it wasn't something that was flighty and trivial, but was both entertaining and introspective when it needed to be.