I was really pleased to hear that the Sunday Times gave this book a well-deserved half-page feature last weekend, which has prompted me to share my own verdict here now.
I first read Hello Europe! this time last year, just before the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest, and will no doubt be flicking through it again in the run up to this year’s event, which takes place this weekend (Saturday 14th May).
For any thinking person who loves the Eurovision Song Contest, now in its 61st glorious year (good heavens!), Hello Europe! is a must-read.
As the subtitle suggests – A History of Modern Europe in Sixty Eurovision Song Contests – it’s far from being a Top of the Pops style run down on pop facts, it’s fascinating reflection on the fast-evolving European political scene, viewed through the machinations of this annual music event.
The Excuse You’ve Been Waiting For
Read this book, and you’ll no longer feel apologetic for watching what’s often perceived as a shallow showcase for kitschy, dumbed-down culture, made palatable only by witty ironic commentators such as Terry Wogan and Graham Norton.
I am not usually a great follower of news or politics, I practically never read a newspaper or watch television news, my only news fix coming from BBC Radio 4 bulletins, but I found this an engaging and accessible journey through post-war European politics. It also made me appreciate the serious contribution that the Contest has made towards international relations – yes, really!
It’s very easy to read, with a useful introduction about the founding of the contest followed by a few pages devoted to each year’s contest. It’s full of fascinating facts – trivia and not so trivial. Not least is the explanation for Israel’s inclusion, which everyone always wonders about. I had lots of “Did you know?” moments, reading snippets aloud to anyone else in the room as I made another joyous discovery.
Viewing History “Through a Lens”
This is definitely recommended reading for anyone who loves the Eurovision Song Contest or who likes to view world history “through a lens” as West puts it – in this case the lens of the contest. I’m now reading another of Chris West’s books in which he views the UK via postage stamps. Wonderful idea! (He’s written a US equivalent too.)
You’ve just got time to snap your copy of Hello Europe! up quick, before the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday 14 May. In the meantime, here’s my final verdict:
Douze Points for Chris West and Hello Europe. Goodnight, Europe, and thank you for listening!
To keep up with the Eurovision Song Contest, please visit its website: www.eurovision.tv
For more about Chris West and to order his books, please visit his website: www.chriswest.info