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Reviews round-up

The critics' verdicts on Eric Hobsbawm, Jay Parini and Tessa Hadley.

How to change the world: Tales of Marx and Marxism by Eric Hobsbawm

Reviewing Eric Hobsbawm's 16th book in the Guardian, Stefan Collini concludes that it demonstrates "that Marxism has, despite its founder's famous proclamation, always contributed more to understanding the world than to changing it", whilst saluting the essay's "sheer intellectual quality."

From the Financial Times, Francis Wheen finds that though "this collection of essays ... about Marxism after Marx is slightly disfigured by the author's enduring party line coyness", Hobsbawm still manages to remind us of the "many reasons for still reading Marx in our turbulent times."

In the New Statesman John Gray accused Hobsbawm of being "highly evasive" in relation to his treatment of the bloody legacy of 20th century political Marxism, and, writing in a "drearily familiar" manner.

The Passengers of Herman Melville by Jay Parini

Writing in the Financial Times, John Sutherland thinks that Parini's "eminently readable narrative convincingly fills in hitherto dark places" in Melville's life, and praises his fictional recreation of Mrs Melville's life.

Philip Hoare, from the Guardian, questions whether Parini's fictional version of Melville's life has been constructed with a touch of authorial "naivety", but admires his "touching evocations of Melville's interior struggles with faith, art and mortality."

In this week's New Statesman, Sarah Churchwell finds that Parini's narrative overtone of "frivolity sits oddly with a writer who was nothing if not serious" and denounces the "literal-mindedness" of this piece of biographical fiction.

The London Train by Tessa Hadley

Tessa Hadley's fourth novel offers "first-class views on the psychological scenery of 21st-century Britain", according to Helen Brown in the Telegraph.

Writing in the Independent, TI Sperlinger concurs that Hadley's novel is "impressive", even if it does contain a few "false notes", such as its "self-consciously literary" tone.

Ophelia Field, from the Guardian, decrees Hadley's latest to be "a good read, with ideas as mature as its characters.

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