Pic from Amazon.com

As a self-confessed and beyond-help Eurovision junkie, I couldn’t resist buying Simon Lipson’s A Song for Europe. I stumbled across it by accident when I was messing with my Kindle one evening. I punched in Eurovision to see what it would come up with. Would you believe 12 items? Actually, 8 of them appear to be the same book. A Song for Europe was sensible priced at $8.62 so I hit the buy button. (It’s very easy to hit it, a bit too easy – a lot of work must have gone into Kindle’s design to facilitate that.)

Why do I like the Eurovision Song Contest so much? It’s so alive and vibrant. It’s truly European (plus a few other countries like Israel and Turkey who can enter because they’re within the European Broadcasting Area). It’s such a kick to think that millions of people across Europe and beyond are watching the same thing at the same time, rather than slumping in national isolation in front of their usual TV programmes. And there’s so much talent out there. So many different musical styles. So many different ideas of what cool outfits are. Most entrants sing in English, and there’s the odd moment when the words don’t quite make sense or sound quite right. Last year’s ‘What for are we living?’ from Latvia is a good example. But who cares, it’s a great song and Aisha performed it well. Long live Eurovision.

And it’s live. Nerves attack, morons jump on stage to join in, the presenters fluff their lines or interrupt each other in the wrong place. What’s going to happen next? It’s compulsive viewing. We watch the BBC version and commentator Graham Norton is the natural successor to Wogan, who made it impossible for anyone to ever take the competition seriously again.

But let’s look at the book. At first glance, the story outline is almost sad. Personable Mike Kenton loses his job and that’s the final nail in the coffin of his crumbling marriage. He finally moves out of his nice house, away from the two daughters he adores, and settles into a poky flat. He turns to his music again, and is spotted by music executive Ben in a tatty bistro. Ben asks if he can enter one of Mike’s songs into the Eurovision Song Contest. Does this rocket Mike into superstardom and solve all his personal problems? I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but it’s not predictable. The book is too realistic for that. A couple of other women emerge to complicate things further too.

2010 Eurovision

This is a really well-written book. Mike is portrayed so realistically – his love for his kids, his depression, his nerves, his indecisiveness. The dialogue is modern and natural i.e. there’s plenty of swearing. Five year old Millie is one of the worst culprits, a nice touch. (Every child goes through the swearing phase to their parents’ chagrin – I mean, where else did they get it from? We can’t blame école in our youngest son’s case as he swears in English.) Mike gets a taste of stardom but he keeps his feet firmly on the ground, like the book does.

Amazon summarises the book as: A laugh-out-loud comedy about love, family, friendship and Euro- tack by acclaimed stand-up and comedy writer Simon Lipson. I agree, but there’s more to the book than that. You’re also almost in tears at times, and the stage fright descriptions seriously make you feel ill.

Entertaining all the way through, this is an excellent read by a top-rate author. Buy it now and you’ve got time to finish it before the Song Contest on 14 May. You’ll look at the event with new eyes now.

Simon has a website at www.simonlipson.com

Daily snippets for 30 April

Today’s saint: Saint Robert of Molesmes

Famous French person born this day: in 1245 King Philip III of France

Famous French person who died on this day: Eustache Le Sueur in 1655, painter and founder of the French Academy of painting

Today’s word: une chanson – song