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A Sophisticated Pleasure
on 19 February 2007
Rather than the adventure/action nature of all the other Tintin stories, this one is a hilarious and extremely well-crafted comedy of manners in which all the protagonists are thrown together and have to 'endure' each other's company over a period of time.
Within a static setting (Marlinspike Hall and its environs) all of the main characters that we have come to know-and-love-so-well appear, and it is the various interactions between them that provide the bones of the story and the humour. The main story revolves around the three distinctive characters of Bianca Castafiore (the 'Milanese Nightingale'), Professor Cuthbert Calculus (of international Man-on-the-Moon fame) and Captain Haddock (formerly crusty sea-dog, now crusty country squire and owner of Marlinspike Hall), and their relationships with each other. Going on around this central theme are various sub-plots, the main one being the imagined theft of the Castafiore Emerald followed by the actual theft, and all the chaos and confusion that arises. And around this, there are further goings-on such as the presence of a gypsy community nearby and the relations between Castafiore and the press. There are also numerous hilarious contributions from subsidiary characters and situations, such as crossed phone-lines, a talking parrot, a LAZY builder, Jolyon Wagg the insurance salesman (the way Castafiore deals with him is hysterical), the Thomson Twins and even the local fire brigade.
Tintin himself is peripheral to the humourous substance of the story, but does most of the running around and sleuthing (ably assisted, of course, by the Thomson Twins - not!) and is ultimately responsible for tying all the threads together and bringing about a satisfactory conclusion.
In addition to this brilliantly well-crafted and very very funny tale, Herge's drawings are absolutely first class, with each picture being not only perfectly executed, but also a skilful composition - the effect of this is a slim, 60 page comic that is as rich and satisfying as a 350 page novel (and is accessible to children - my cousin Tim and I and our sisters all loved Tintin dearly, even as young children).
If you don't already have any Tintin books, then I urge you to rectify that immediately - you'll be giving yourself (and any kids you may have) a real treat!