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The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper

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Five devastating human stories and a dark and moving portrait of Victorian London—the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper. Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden, and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country Five devastating human stories and a dark and moving portrait of Victorian London—the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper. Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden, and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers. What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888. The person responsible was never identified, but the character created by the press to fill that gap has become far more famous than any of these five women. For more than a century, newspapers have been keen to tell us that "the Ripper" preyed on prostitutes. Not only is this untrue, as historian Hallie Rubenhold has discovered, it has prevented the real stories of these fascinating women from being told. Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, revealing a world not just of Dickens and Queen Victoria, but of poverty, homelessness and rampant misogyny. They died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time—but their greatest misfortune was to be born a woman.  


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Five devastating human stories and a dark and moving portrait of Victorian London—the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper. Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden, and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country Five devastating human stories and a dark and moving portrait of Victorian London—the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper. Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden, and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers. What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888. The person responsible was never identified, but the character created by the press to fill that gap has become far more famous than any of these five women. For more than a century, newspapers have been keen to tell us that "the Ripper" preyed on prostitutes. Not only is this untrue, as historian Hallie Rubenhold has discovered, it has prevented the real stories of these fascinating women from being told. Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, revealing a world not just of Dickens and Queen Victoria, but of poverty, homelessness and rampant misogyny. They died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time—but their greatest misfortune was to be born a woman.  

30 review for The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper

  1. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold is a 2019 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publication. "She had been brought into the world along the Street of Ink, and it is to there, riding on the column inches, its illuminated plates, its rumor and scandal, that she would return: a name in print.” The canonical five Ripper victims: Mary Ann -Polly- Nichols Annie Chapman Elizabeth Stride Catherine- Kate- Eddowes Mary Jane Kelly Ask your friends, relatives, or The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold is a 2019 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publication. "She had been brought into the world along the Street of Ink, and it is to there, riding on the column inches, its illuminated plates, its rumor and scandal, that she would return: a name in print.” The canonical five Ripper victims: Mary Ann -Polly- Nichols Annie Chapman Elizabeth Stride Catherine- Kate- Eddowes Mary Jane Kelly Ask your friends, relatives, or colleagues what they know about the five women Jack the Ripper murdered and nearly all of them will say ‘they were prostitutes’. However, with one notable exception, there is no concrete proof the other four victims ever identified themselves as such or worked in the sex trade. What we are reminded of here, is that these women were mothers, sisters, lovers and wives. They had hard lives, bad luck, and little choice or opportunity to change their circumstances. Their lives have been reduced to little consequence, partly because the sensationalism surrounding the Jack the Ripper legend, and tons of unsubstantiated information- but most of all because they were thought of as ‘just prostitutes’. It has taken us a little over a century to finally restore humanity to these women, to examine the mindset that promoted their sexualisation, and diminished the compassion and respect due them. The author did a lot of deep digging and research to give the reader an in -depth profile of each of these five women. The laws of the day were stacked against them because they were women, their options were few, forcing them into the streets. They worked legitimate jobs, but society judged their lifestyles, slapping upon them the undeserved label of a ‘fallen woman’. Many of the historical details are mind numbing. It’s an overwhelming, depressing, and bleak portrait the author paints, proving it wasn’t the sex trade that made these women targets, but their vulnerability brought on by poverty, addiction, and abuse. The author astutely and determinedly takes us to task for all the ways society had devalued human life. Judgments have been passed based on second -hand information, conveyed by so called reputable sources which eventually became cemented into the lore of Jack the Ripper, and shoving these women so far into the background, they have been cast off like so much rubbish. The books, movies, documentaries all geared towards discovering the identity of the elusive serial killer, raises him into a cult celebrity status. It is appalling that souvenirs are sold bearing the silhouetted image of a savage murderer!! Yet, we can’t take the time to mourn the victims, much less remember them as individual human beings. They get lost in the grisly gore, as incorrect information continues to be passed off as the unmitigated truth. This is an eye-opening book, and a humbling experience. I came away feeling duly discomfited and chastened. While I never viewed these women as ‘just prostitutes’, I never stopped to consider if the information about them was true or not. That is another reason why this book is long, long, long overdue!! I highly recommend this book to everyone. It is an important book, debunking long presumed facts, but also, at long last, it helps to restore dignity to these women. It is an educational book, depicting real history. This book is not about Jack the Ripper, and his crimes are not detailed in this book, appropriately so, and there are no theories tossed about as to his identity. I think we've had enough of those types of books already. If you’ve labored under the illusion that these women were ‘just prostitutes’, this book will pull the wool from your eyes and give you a fresh perspective on the past, one you may not have considered before now. A must read! 5 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Beata

    This book is not about Jack the Ripper, it is about his five victims. Written to remember five women who are usually just names in hundreds of books about the infamous serial killer, this book is an attempt to tell their stories and to remind us that they were once babies, daughters, mothers or lovers, who lived lives full of hardship and misfortunes. The amount of research done by the author is imposing and she managed to recreate the lives of women who lived modest and ordinary lives in the This book is not about Jack the Ripper, it is about his five victims. Written to remember five women who are usually just names in hundreds of books about the infamous serial killer, this book is an attempt to tell their stories and to remind us that they were once babies, daughters, mothers or lovers, who lived lives full of hardship and misfortunes. The amount of research done by the author is imposing and she managed to recreate the lives of women who lived modest and ordinary lives in the Victorian times. A big thank-you to Hallie Rubenhold for her effort to shed light on the victims overshadowed by their most brutal and vicious murderer.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Shannon

    I've been waiting for someone to write this book for years.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    This is an eye opening and revelatory history of the real lives of the women killed by the infamous murderer, Jack the Ripper. One of the most astounding facts presented is that all of the women were killed while in a reclining position, that along with no one hearing anything, and statistics showing that thousands of destitute women slept "rough" every night in London leads the author to the conclusion that all of the women were killed while sleeping, not in the performance of a sex act. In This is an eye opening and revelatory history of the real lives of the women killed by the infamous murderer, Jack the Ripper. One of the most astounding facts presented is that all of the women were killed while in a reclining position, that along with no one hearing anything, and statistics showing that thousands of destitute women slept "rough" every night in London leads the author to the conclusion that all of the women were killed while sleeping, not in the performance of a sex act. In fact these women could not be termed prostitutes, except for Mary Jane Kelly. They have been linked as such for all the years since 1888 when the first murder occurred. Labeled by the Victorian press in order to sell more newspapers, they have been libeled through the ages as trash, so we don't need to worry about what happened to them. Indeed, the murderer has become a sort of folk hero and treated with a smile and a wink. All of the women suffered tremendously in this life and have been vilified in death. They were all variously, wives, daughters, mothers, sisters and friends. Down on their luck, homeless, without any means of making a living, they turned to "demon" drink, which of course created other problems. Their problems were exacerbated by the fact that they were women, in the Victorian age and even still today, there is a double standard. Women who slept with a man outside of marriage or drank or even didn't particularly want to work 12 hours a day in a factory for a pittance, were thought of as licentious outcasts beyond the pale of society; whereas, if a man did those things which he often did, the good wife was supposed to bring him back in the fold. Women had the whole onus of being the responsible, upright member of the family and to inculcate those virtues in the children of which a whole other book could be written about the draining, debilitating effect having a child every year did to the poor females of the era. This is a wonderful book and an enlightening one. I never really realized how horrible the Victorian age was, especially for poor people. You can read the whole of Dickens and not understand it.What this author seeks to do in telling the story of these pitiful, forgotten women is to restore their dignity and that she has achieved.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Maja - BibliophiliaDK ✨

    THE BOOK THAT RIPPEROLOGY HAS NEEDED FOR DECADES! Ask yourself this question: how much do you know about the five women that Jack the Ripper killed in 1888? If you answered anything at all, it was most likely that they were prostitutes. You probably don't even know their names. What if I told you that the one thing you thought you knew might not even be true at all? What if I told you that some of these women were actually mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. Poor souls who fell on hard times THE BOOK THAT RIPPEROLOGY HAS NEEDED FOR DECADES! 😍💖 Ask yourself this question: how much do you know about the five women that Jack the Ripper killed in 1888? If you answered anything at all, it was most likely that they were prostitutes. You probably don't even know their names. What if I told you that the one thing you thought you knew might not even be true at all? What if I told you that some of these women were actually mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. Poor souls who fell on hard times and then got murdered. There's so much we don't know about these women because nobody took the time find out! Well, it's time we begun! "[...] we have figuratively stepped over the bodies of those he murdered, and in some cases, stopped to kick them as we walked past." ❤ WHAT I LOVED ❤ Originality: There is an ocean of books about Jack the Ripper and I dare venture a guess that 10/10 aim at figuring out his identity. In our eagerness to solve the mystery we have completely forgotten the victims of his crimes. Those poor women have become nothing more than footnotes in the myth of Jack the Ripper. Making them the stars of the show is the most original approach to Jack the Ripper I have even seen - and quite frankly, this was long overdue! New information: I'll admit, before this book I was one of the people who couldn't even really name these women. And I also bought the common belief of them being prostitutes. This book gave me so much new information about these women. I had one aha-moment after the other, revelation upon revelation. These women really lived. Still, we only remember them for their deaths. Lives: I LOVED that Rubenhold didn't dedicate any time to describing the murders of these women. Because that's all they've been for so long - murder victims. This book is solely about their lives, how they lived and the people they left behind. Want to know about the grizzliness of their deaths? There are a thousand other books you can turn to for that... Perspective: Why do we remember these women as prostitutes even if that was not what they were. Well, Rubenhold gives and excellent answer to that question. It is all about the attitudes towards 'down on their luck' women in the Victorian era. At that time there was legally, little difference between being homeless and being a prostitute as a woman. It is time we left behind the morality of the Victorian era. Vindication: These women were little more than numbers in a sequence. With this book they have gotten their lives and their identities back. Rubenhold takes the first steps in vindicating them and righting a wrong that has dominated for more than 130 years.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    I think this book is absolutely wonderful. It was everything I expected and more. I honestly had tremendous difficulty putting it down! It is very clear that Rubenhold has done her research for this book, and she masterfully keeps a fine balance between telling the story of each of the five women's lives, and the pure, solid research and creating the atmosphere of what life would have been like at that particular time. I thought the women's stories were very moving. They were written with style, I think this book is absolutely wonderful. It was everything I expected and more. I honestly had tremendous difficulty putting it down! It is very clear that Rubenhold has done her research for this book, and she masterfully keeps a fine balance between telling the story of each of the five women's lives, and the pure, solid research and creating the atmosphere of what life would have been like at that particular time. I thought the women's stories were very moving. They were written with style, and individuality. I almost felt like I actually knew the women. I have always been interested in the victorian slums, and parts in this book satisfies that, and, gives reference to other works, to enable readers to further their reading. It was rather interesting to read of the rights that women had, especially in regards to their husbands, in that era. If a married woman hopped into another man's bed, it was seen as adultery immediately, but, if a man did the same, it wasn't so easy for the woman to prove. The man would have had to have committed another crime alongside that, in order to receive any payment or justice of any sense. I really felt for these women, and I cannot begin to imagine what life was like for them. This book has given Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Kate and Mary-Jane a voice, and I think everybody needs to read this phenomenal book!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Fiona MacDonald

    I don't really know what to say about this book. It completely blew my mind. I am gobsmacked that there have been no other authors who have described the lives of 'the five' so realistically. The focus until now has really been on the killer himself and the poor women have never been given a voice. But here Hallie Rubenhold does just that - she gives these women their voices back. She brings their unique, raw and gritty stories to life, she stands up for them, she gives them back their dignity, I don't really know what to say about this book. It completely blew my mind. I am gobsmacked that there have been no other authors who have described the lives of 'the five' so realistically. The focus until now has really been on the killer himself and the poor women have never been given a voice. But here Hallie Rubenhold does just that - she gives these women their voices back. She brings their unique, raw and gritty stories to life, she stands up for them, she gives them back their dignity, and above all, she makes sure that readers know exactly what sort of women these tragic victims really were. Their stories are fascinating, their upbringings and early life heart-wrenching, and their menial occupations soul destroying. They were never 'just prostitutes' (in fact, only 2 of the 5 were even proven to be so), and 4 out of 5 were alcoholics from a terribly young age (this is more of a link than prostitution ever was). They were poor women (excluding Mary Jane Kelly) with large families that needed looking after, who were usually mistreated and bullied by the men in their lives and sometimes went days without food or shelter. The frequency that these women went through the workhouses was very upsetting, and the demeaning effects of queuing up for a bed with no guarantee of a place for the night must've really broken them. What I found extremely refreshing about this book was that the attack/the aftermath of the gruesome discovery of the bodies was bared touched upon. It ran maybe half a page at the most. For once, there is a book that instead of glorifiying the disgusting way these women were killed, focuses on their lives and the impact they had on the others around them. Thank you for setting the record straight, once and for all Hallie.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Hallie Rubenhold has come up with a fabulous piece of non-fiction with this book, examine one of England’s most notorious unsolved serial killing sprees. The Jack the Ripper murders rocked London (and the world) in 1888, though no one has ever been formally fingered as the killer. With the euphoria of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee still lingering, a number of women were found slain in the streets of London in the summer and autumn of 1888. These women received some press, mostly speculative Hallie Rubenhold has come up with a fabulous piece of non-fiction with this book, examine one of England’s most notorious unsolved serial killing sprees. The Jack the Ripper murders rocked London (and the world) in 1888, though no one has ever been formally fingered as the killer. With the euphoria of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee still lingering, a number of women were found slain in the streets of London in the summer and autumn of 1888. These women received some press, mostly speculative about their means of living, though few know anything about them. Rubenhold seeks to change that by developing brief biographies of the five women and offering the reader some insight into the lives they lived before being found murdered. While socio-economic means surely shaped some of their lives, one cannot simply lump all the victims as prostitutes and turn a blind eye. Rubenhold seeks not only to personify them, but to offer the reader something about their upbringing and means of living. Some readers will be shocked to discover the information that Rubenhold is able to unearth, while others will feel it only solidifies their already firmly-held beliefs. At a time when serial murder is anything but uncommon, it is refreshing that someone has taken an interest in the victims, rather than sensationalising the killer, who basks in the limelight for eternity. Well-paced and fabulously detailed, Hallie Rubenhold impresses the attentive reader with her research. Recommended for those who love delving deeper into the murders of Victorian England, as well as the reader who loves biographical pieces with a twist. I came across this book quite by accident, which can sometimes prove to be the best sort of reading experiences. While I am no Jack the Ripper fanatic, I have taken an interest in the murders and was eager to see what Rubenhold had to say. She reiterates the contrast between England’s upper classes who were still celebrating the long reign of their monarch with the lower classes who had little chance of ever seeing riches or notoriety. The seedy underbelly of the streets of this European mega city are not lost on the reader, who is given so much information. As Rubenhold suggests, many simply gloss over the names of the victims and want to learn about this killer, though it is the lives of these women that really makes for something worth reading. Some knew only a life of poverty and disease, while one came from abroad and settled in a new location to begin afresh. The biographies presented are thorough, though not exhaustive by any means, which gives the reader insight into their lives while also leaving much open to interpretation and perhaps further investigation. I am not aware of anyone else who has taken the time to develop a detailed story of the women whose lives helped develop the notoriety that Jack the Ripper earned, heightened makes this unique piece all the more exciting. Detailed chapters flow easily and the five women have their lives contrasted and compared by the reader who has the time to do so. Rubenhold does well to present her approach and does so in a concise and easy to comprehend manner. A great biographical piece about the most unusual topic. Do take some time to check it out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised! Kudos, Madam Rubenhold, for this insightful piece. I hope to find more of your writing soon, to further my education even more. Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/ A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Do we ever remember the names of victims of serious crimes or mass shootings? I seldom do, but I remember the names of the shooters of Columbine, yet not one of the victims. Is it the fault of the media, who continuously report the shooters names, but flash the pictures of the victims only once? We all know Jack the ripper, know he was never caught, and that debates today still ponder his identity. We have read repeatedly that he killed prostitutes, but was this an accurate description of these Do we ever remember the names of victims of serious crimes or mass shootings? I seldom do, but I remember the names of the shooters of Columbine, yet not one of the victims. Is it the fault of the media, who continuously report the shooters names, but flash the pictures of the victims only once? We all know Jack the ripper, know he was never caught, and that debates today still ponder his identity. We have read repeatedly that he killed prostitutes, but was this an accurate description of these women? Rubenhold, does a fantastic job describing the lives of these women, as well as how the odds we're stacked against them from the beginning. As it was for many women during this time period. The author takes one woman's life at a time, chronicling their lives from birth to death. She also show us how life was for those who were poor, descriptions of the workhouses and the lives of those who slept rough. These five women took different paths to their eventual murders, but it is made clear that they could not all be considered prostitutes. Though they turned to drink, some to ease the pain of the lives they were forced to live, and in one case it as drink that caused her to lose her comfortable home and children. This is a well researched, well told book, and the names of the victims certainly deserve recognition. Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary Jane deserve no less. They were victims of a time and system where some they little choice in their lives, few safety valves and few chances for improvement. They were is essence victims, even before their murders by the notorious Jack the Ripper. The narration was excellent and I give the narrator Louise Brealey, four stars as well.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    The Five tells the stories of the five supposed victims of Jack the Ripper. Instead of the ‘prostitues’ often depicted in the media, Hallie Rubenhold weaves a tale of destitution, addiction and poverty amongst the streets of Whitechapel and beyond. Far from being ‘fallen women’, these women were mothers, daughters, wives and sisters. Aiming to bring their life to the forefront and remove them from the label of Ripper victim, this is an excellent account of what it was to live and work in the The Five tells the stories of the five supposed victims of Jack the Ripper. Instead of the ‘prostitues’ often depicted in the media, Hallie Rubenhold weaves a tale of destitution, addiction and poverty amongst the streets of Whitechapel and beyond. Far from being ‘fallen women’, these women were mothers, daughters, wives and sisters. Aiming to bring their life to the forefront and remove them from the label of Ripper victim, this is an excellent account of what it was to live and work in the poorest areas of Victorian London. This is an incredible piece of work, with a lot of research and facts woven into the five women’s lives. It’s a socioeconomic examination on what life was really like for those at the bottom end of the poverty scale - those so poor that they couldn’t afford a roof over their head, often living hand to mouth on a daily basis. It shines a light on their horrific living conditions and the various reasons why these women ended up where they did - unfortunately a lot of the time alcohol addiction played a major role. But, most importantly it should be noted that all but one of these women were not known prostitutes. Rather, the police painted them all with the same brush simply for living, and dying, the way they did. Often thought of with so little regard that the papers couldn’t be bothered to find out their real backgrounds and personal histories, going for salacious and untrue gossip instead. I honestly couldn’t recommend this enough. Although it was completely different to what I thought it would be, this book completely skims over the women’s deaths and refuses to give more column inches to their killer, instead providing insightful and thoughtful commentary on a difficult historical period for women. Recommend to all.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bill Lynas

    I've probably read far too many books on Jack The Ripper in my lifetime, but Hallie Rubenhold's book sounded intriguing. Instead of covering the actual murders she puts together an excellent narrative covering the lives of the five victims, as well as opening reader's eyes to the social history of London in 1888. Much like Robin Jarossi's book The Hunt For The 60s Ripper (covering eight unsolved murders in the 1960s) Rubenhold treats the women killed with dignity & respect. The book supplies I've probably read far too many books on Jack The Ripper in my lifetime, but Hallie Rubenhold's book sounded intriguing. Instead of covering the actual murders she puts together an excellent narrative covering the lives of the five victims, as well as opening reader's eyes to the social history of London in 1888. Much like Robin Jarossi's book The Hunt For The 60s Ripper (covering eight unsolved murders in the 1960s) Rubenhold treats the women killed with dignity & respect. The book supplies a huge amount of detail regarding the women's lives, in context with London of the time. Rubenhold vividly brings 1880's London to life & her style is gripping, easy to follow & never dull. An outstanding piece of writing.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Eleanor

    (4.5) The first thing to know about The Five is that it is a book defined by its approach; the second thing is that the approach is long overdue. The facts are these: in the late summer and autumn of 1888, from the end of August to November, five women were murdered in London’s Whitechapel neighbourhood. They appeared to have been killed in the same way, and presumably by the same person. That person was never caught, but the persona that solidified around him (though, of course, we can’t know (4.5) The first thing to know about The Five is that it is a book defined by its approach; the second thing is that the approach is long overdue. The facts are these: in the late summer and autumn of 1888, from the end of August to November, five women were murdered in London’s Whitechapel neighbourhood. They appeared to have been killed in the same way, and presumably by the same person. That person was never caught, but the persona that solidified around him (though, of course, we can’t know for sure that he was a him) goes by the name “Jack the Ripper”. Victorian society and 21st-century society both possess an unhealthy obsession with the sickening minutiae of Jack’s crimes–the way in which he physically mutilated the women he killed, and the almost supernatural ease with which he seemed to vanish into the gas-lit, fog-bound metropolis. Of the people he murdered, the most that any story about them seems to agree on is that they were sex workers. That “fact” (which is not true) has obscured both the actual lives they lived, and the reality of their murders: that they were not nubile doxies hanging about on street corners with artfully tousled Helena Bonham-Carter hair, but rather were overwhelmingly middle-aged, alcoholic, homeless women whose primary failing was to have been left bereft, in one way or another, of the male protection without which a nineteenth-century woman was considered functionally worthless. Hallie Rubenhold is redressing the balance. The Five is a group biography; each of the women considered “canonical” victims of the Ripper murders is given a section of her own, which consists of three to four chapters that trace her life history from birth to the night she died. The most deliberate structural choice in the book is that Rubenhold never describes a murder. She’s writing with an agenda about which she is not remotely ashamed: women who are murdered are more than the story of their deaths. Starting with what can be determined about each woman’s early life–her parents, her place of birth, her place in the social hierarchy–she uses a sometimes scanty primary source record, bolstered with intelligently chosen secondary sources that provide contextual information about the experience of working-class life in late nineteenth-century England. Inevitably, she is forced to engage in a certain amount of speculation: in the absence of CCTV or diaries from the women themselves, it’s often difficult to know why they moved house, for instance, or whether the name that appears in parish records is the right one. But she has an excellent capacity for triangulation: she frequently uses that aforementioned historical context in conjunction with a primary source to arrive at a conclusion of what is overwhelmingly likely about a particular woman’s life, and it is convincing. The most patently false “fact” about the canonical five is that they were all sex workers (or, as Rubenhold calls them throughout the book, “prostitutes”; I assume this is for historical continuity and she is using the word as it was deployed in police reports). There is no evidence that four out of the five women were professional sellers of sex. (The fifth, Mary Jane Kelly, is the one about whom we know the least.) However, every single one of them is known to have struggled with alcohol addiction. Mostly, drinking problems and the resultant financial strain were responsible for the implosion of their marriages or common-law relationships. They were all–again, except for Mary Jane Kelly–murdered outside, in the middle of the night. The unbearably sad conclusion is that their killer was targeting, not youthful sex workers who were lying down to ply their trade, but middle-aged homeless women who were lying down because they were asleep. Rubenhold makes it terribly clear that being a woman “outside” conventional societal roles–a woman separated from her husband or widowed, an addict, a beggar–was conflated, often fatally, with being a woman of loose morals. No distinction was made between the broken and the fallen. Not only is The Five a lucid and frankly addictive group biography (the pages really do turn themselves); it also makes painfully clear that a country whose social welfare programs are limited to the application of shame, humiliation, and a rigid code of so-called morality is not a country anyone ought to wish to return to. (I, like Rubenhold, will leave you to infer the contemporary political resonance.) It is, in short, an excellent book as well as a much-needed one: it mingles true crime and well-researched history with narrative energy and Rubenhold’s ever-present passion for her subject. It’s going to do well without my help, but you really should read it. If you like what I write, why not buy me a coffee?

  13. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Some time ago, I was incensed enough, after reading one of Patrician Cornwell’s obsessive rants about the Ripper, to comment in my review of her book: “She has a rather naive view of Victorian London,(and) is quite insulting about the people who lived there (they may have been poverty stricken, drunk, uneducated, illiterate etc, but no person deserves to be described as "rubbish").” Of another book of hers, I wrote, “she puts modern judgements on those inhabitants of Victorian London – too Some time ago, I was incensed enough, after reading one of Patrician Cornwell’s obsessive rants about the Ripper, to comment in my review of her book: “She has a rather naive view of Victorian London,(and) is quite insulting about the people who lived there (they may have been poverty stricken, drunk, uneducated, illiterate etc, but no person deserves to be described as "rubbish").” Of another book of hers, I wrote, “she puts modern judgements on those inhabitants of Victorian London – too drunk, too poor, too uneducated… In fact, considering the distain in which she seems to hold those concerned with the Ripper murders, it is confusing why she seems to so concerned about the murder of a series of women little known for their sobriety.” As I was pretty cross about the way the victims were treated, by that particular author, I was delighted to read this, in which the victims are put centre stage. This is one of two books which have appeared this year (2019) which tells the story of a true crime case, from the point of view of the victims, rather than the murderer. The other title is: “Somebody’s Mother, Somebody’s Daughter,” by Carol Ann Lee; a book about the victims, and the survivors, of the Yorkshire Ripper. The title of the book is a play upon, “Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son: The Story of the Yorkshire Ripper,” by Gordon Burn, a biography of Peter Sutcliffe. Going back to 1888, anyone who has read anything about Jack the Ripper, will know that much research is contentious and little agreed upon. As such, author Hallie Rubenhold, wisely sticks to telling the stories of the five, canonical, victims, that are agreed upon as women killed by Jack the Ripper: Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly. Like Carol Ann Lee in, “Somebody’s Mother..” Rubenhold attacks the views of these women, all branded as prostitutes and as sidelines in the story of the Ripper. Women as bodies, shown lying, with mutilated faces in mortuary photographs of Jack the Ripper’s victims. The story is about discovering who the Ripper is, with the women killed mere mentions, of interest only in terms of clues found, or alibis established… In this book, Rubenhold returns the backgrounds, lives and families, to these women. She also uses their stories to branch off into social history of the time. We read of workhouses, alcoholism, prostitution, domestic violence, of unmarried mothers and syphilis. However, we also learn of education for girls, of the printing trade, life in the army, farming in Sweden, hop picking and Methodist property developers. These women were victims, but they were also mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and lovers. Rubenhold makes sure they are remembered not just for being victims and challenges the perceptions made about them.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Geevee

    Hallie Rubenhold's book is a triumph. A triumph that results in new information and insight into the victims of "Jack the Ripper". Ms Rubenhold's work is successful on a number of levels: her ability to research numerous sources to derive background and until now unknown information; her skill in taking what must have been numerous strands and small pieces of often unrelated information and detail together; her craft as an author to weave these together and bring five murdered women to the pages Hallie Rubenhold's book is a triumph. A triumph that results in new information and insight into the victims of "Jack the Ripper". Ms Rubenhold's work is successful on a number of levels: her ability to research numerous sources to derive background and until now unknown information; her skill in taking what must have been numerous strands and small pieces of often unrelated information and detail together; her craft as an author to weave these together and bring five murdered women to the pages as people and, finally, to then merge all this into a lively, atmospheric and sympathetic but respectful and insightful book about the Victorian Britain they lived, died and were judged in and by. The common link, and of course the reason for the book, Jack the Ripper, does not feature. There is no exploration of the murderer as a person or his crimes. This is both welcome but also a clever and successful decision as at no point does the "Ripper" overshadow these five women's stories. Ms Rubenhold shows that the commonly held viewpoint of the occupations of the five women as prostitutes is wrong and far more diverse but with some similarities too. What she shows, and this is the great success of this book, is that life for women - especially working class women - was rigid, tough, insensitive, traumatic and fragile. Their stories are ones of big and split families, hard work and drudgery, illness, infant mortality, family bereavement, lost jobs, violence and drink. These conditions lead the five eventually to Whitechapel to live and work; in some cases with prostitution involved, but not all nor all the time. Each of the five women's lives are naturally in places patchy and by necessity have some suggestion to events or aspects generalised, but this does not detract but shows the work done to piece together what was undocumented or publicised until now. If you are searching for information, new hypotheses or even gory details about Jack and the murders then this book is not for you. However, should you want to read about five Victorian era women whose lives, until the moments they were brutally murdered, would be similar to hundreds of thousands, including one's own ancestors, and how society judged and pigeonholed them, then I cannot recommend it highly enough.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I'm glad this book exists. I'm glad it spends next to no pagetime on Jack the Ripper himself, because he's had more than enough press over the years. I'm glad that someone is at least trying to put the victims at the front of the narrative, which is where they should have been to begin with. But . . . A big part of Rubenhold's thesis in this book is that four of the five women were, in fact, not sex workers, and that they had been unfairly classified as such due to Victorian prejudice against the I'm glad this book exists. I'm glad it spends next to no pagetime on Jack the Ripper himself, because he's had more than enough press over the years. I'm glad that someone is at least trying to put the victims at the front of the narrative, which is where they should have been to begin with. But . . . A big part of Rubenhold's thesis in this book is that four of the five women were, in fact, not sex workers, and that they had been unfairly classified as such due to Victorian prejudice against the working class. That may well be true; I haven't read far enough into Ripperology to confirm or deny it. But the second part of the argument Rubenhold makes seems to be contingent on the first: they were not prostitutes, and therefore they are more sympathetic, more complex, and more multifaceted than they've been given credit for. The idea that these women could have been prostitutes and also been worthy of respect, love, and mourning never really appears in the book. There is little to no sympathy here for confirmed sex workers; even in the case of Mary Kelly, who was definitely engaging in sex work at the time of her death, Rubenhold invents a backstory for her out of whole cloth (she was tricked and trafficked to Paris by dastardly pimps!) to make her profession more palatable. It's an old, tired narrative: sex workers aren't sympathetic unless they were forced into the profession at gunpoint. Does it matter? Can't Mary Kelly be a whole person who also sold sex, no matter how she got there? (I also have to note that Rubenhold's sources, especially in the Mary Kelly section, are more than a little suspect - she quotes W.T. Stead's "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon," a tract that has been widely criticized and discredited since it was published in 1885. Given this level of sloppiness, how well can the rest of her research be trusted?) I don't know if Polly, Annie, Elisabeth, Kate, and Mary were sex workers. It doesn't matter. It doesn't make their deaths more or less tragic. It's just unfortunate that, under the banner of advocating for their memories, Rubenhold felt the need to separate them from the "streetwalkers" who are - in this book's narrative - less worthy of sympathy and respect.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ingrid

    Interesting representation of the social history, especially of the lower classes, of the Victorian era based on the lives of the five Ripper victims. It is good that the lives of these ladies are explained and that they have been taken out of anonymity in this way.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Olive

    I talk about this book in my video for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction 2019 Shortlist: https://youtu.be/mEmyvi4Y8RQ

  18. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    When this book first came out, I put it on the “wait until paperback” list. Then the news about Rubenhold being trolled arrived. She was even compared to David Irving. Surely, I thought, this can not be simply because she is a woman and argues that not all the victim were prostitutes. Surely, it can’t be that. It seemed worse than when a certain mystery author claimed to have solved the case. Surely, if the reaction Rubenhold’s book is worse than reaction to that one by Ripperologists, there When this book first came out, I put it on the “wait until paperback” list. Then the news about Rubenhold being trolled arrived. She was even compared to David Irving. Surely, I thought, this can not be simply because she is a woman and argues that not all the victim were prostitutes. Surely, it can’t be that. It seemed worse than when a certain mystery author claimed to have solved the case. Surely, if the reaction Rubenhold’s book is worse than reaction to that one by Ripperologists, there must be something wrong with it. Well, no. There isn’t. Quite frankly, the reaction that Rubenhold has received from some quarters because of her book because just shows how misogynist and sexist people are. The mystery author deserved the criticism for her book was an example of how not to research. Rubenhold’s The Five, however, is an example of what good research does. Rubenhold’s book should be required reading for anyone remotely interested in the Ripper or in Victorian London as well as those interested in Women’s Studies. The most shocking thing about the book isn’t the thesis, which Rubenhold proves to an academic standard but simply that a historian hasn’t done this before. This isn’t intended as a slight to Rubenhold, but more at Ripperologists. Rubenhold basically puts the women in historical context. In some ways, this book made me think of Greer’s Shakespeare’s Wife, where history is used to challenge the traditional view of Anne Hathaway as a manipulative shrew. There is an important difference, however, Rubenhold is more conservative in her conclusions than Greer. Greer relied on guesswork and deduction in some places (her most far reaching was having Anne be partially responsible for the first printing of the Works). Rubenhold’s conclusions are back up by data and hard facts. When she supposes, it is a minor way and the supposition is clear. Elizabeth Stride, Mary Ann Nicols, Mary Jane Kelly, Catherine Eddowes, Annie Chapman. Those are the victims. And Rubenhold is correct. The murderer is remembered, dare we say celebrated, more than his victims. To be fair, this isn’t just true about Jack the Ripper. How many of us can name a victim of Charles Manson outside of Tate? Perhaps, in remembering the name of the murderer as opposed to the murdered not only is it one name to remember in many cases, but the actor is the reason. This in addition to the status of the victims as well. There is a reason why we know the name Sharon Tate as opposed to Rosemary LaBianca. Rubenhold traces the lives of the women as much as she is able to. The London and because of Stride, the Sweden, she presents is familiar to any reader of say Charles Dickens, Arnold, Judith Flanders, or social history. If you have any detailed societal history, the facts are not surprising or shocking. Or quite frankly, something you should be debating. What Rubenhold does is takes those societal facts and the known facts about the victims and presents the victims as people. Some of the women were mothers. Most of the women had people who loved them. Who were mourned. All were products of a cultural that did not value women in the same way it valued men. Something that Rubenhold points out, and notes its long shadow. Rubenhold’s mention of the Brock Turner case is a perfect example of how far we haven’t come. We judge victims on worthiness. Take for instance, the Grim Sleeper case in California. If those victims had more money, had been white, would the case have gone unnoticed for so long? Rubenhold also addresses how prostitution was defined and how women of different ages coped with being on the street. Think about it – today, do we think every homeless woman is a prostitute? I don’t think so. So why should we think the same about women back then. Rubenhold doesn’t present the women as saints, but more of products of an environment. It shows the effect of poverty and limited options. And this is something that still affects and effects today. More importantly, Rubenhold presents all this – social history, brief biographies - in a format that is easily approachable and readable. You don’t have to be a Ripperologist or a history professor to read this novel. You just have to know how to read. Two other points – sources are footnoted and documented. She is nothing like David Irving. The most touching part of the book is the appendix where the belongings of the women are listed.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Montzalee Wittmann

    OMG! This book ripped my heart out! I read it twice! The Five by Hallow Rubenhold is such a deep and moving account of the biography of the last five women killed by Jack the Ripper. It follows each women from birth of possible, on up to death. My heart just ached for each of them. The society failed them. I had to read this book twice. The first time I was just emotional overwhelmed. The second time I was anger. If they had been born at a different time, or had different laws for women, had OMG! This book ripped my heart out! I read it twice! The Five by Hallow Rubenhold is such a deep and moving account of the biography of the last five women killed by Jack the Ripper. It follows each women from birth of possible, on up to death. My heart just ached for each of them. The society failed them. I had to read this book twice. The first time I was just emotional overwhelmed. The second time I was anger. If they had been born at a different time, or had different laws for women, had government programs for the poor that didn't discriminate against women, and others. Frustrating! I felt like I knew these women due to the tremendous writing skills of this author. She really brought out the 1880's so well that it was disgusting! This book is a gem! I am so glad I found it! This is the same author that has a series on Hulu. If you love history, the side that is never told, this is for you!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth George

    This is the story of the five women who were murdered by Jack the Ripper in London in 1888. Long assumed to be common prostitutes, the women are in this non-fiction book examined through the lives they actually led prior to the night each of them had a fatal encounter with the killer. The author uses detailed research through historical documents, archives, and contemporaneous writing to flesh out the existences of the women while at the same time offering a detailed look at what life was like This is the story of the five women who were murdered by Jack the Ripper in London in 1888. Long assumed to be common prostitutes, the women are in this non-fiction book examined through the lives they actually led prior to the night each of them had a fatal encounter with the killer. The author uses detailed research through historical documents, archives, and contemporaneous writing to flesh out the existences of the women while at the same time offering a detailed look at what life was like for impoverished women in Victorian England. The final victim--Mary Ann Kelly--is the only one about whom there appears to be little information extant. As for the others, each is a heartbreaking yet illuminating story about how women have been and are still treated by any society that sees them of less value than man.

  21. 4 out of 5

    ✨ jamieson ✨

    At its very core, the story of Jack the Ripper is a narrative of a killers deep, abiding hatred of women. Our cultural obsession with the mythology surround Jack the Riper only serves to normalise its particular brand of misogyny. We've grown so comfortable with these stories - the unfathomable male killer - that we've failed to recognise that he continues to walk among us." I really really admire what the author did here. The Five is such an engaging book, highlighting not only some of the At its very core, the story of Jack the Ripper is a narrative of a killers deep, abiding hatred of women. Our cultural obsession with the mythology surround Jack the Riper only serves to normalise its particular brand of misogyny. We've grown so comfortable with these stories - the unfathomable male killer - that we've failed to recognise that he continues to walk among us." I really really admire what the author did here. The Five is such an engaging book, highlighting not only some of the social conditions of the Victorian period, but also finally unveiling the lives of five women's whose names and death are immortalised, but whose lives haven't been of much interest to the public. This book not only examines cultural beliefs and ideologies of the period, and acts as a study into Victorian life, but also creates a fascinating picture of five women who we know nothing about aside from their deaths. I was expecting a story about five lives and I got that - but I also got so many more context and information about the Victorian period that I found fascinating. Rubenhold doesn't attempt to solve the crimes - she just lets the voices of the women speak without contextualising them in their deaths. I thought the way Jack the Ripper is barely mentioned, except in the conclusion, was a powerful way to tell this story and I really appreciated Rubenhold's dedication and research that has gone into finally telling these women's stories. One thing I particularly enjoyed was Rubenhold's linking of the mythologies around men like JTR, and the violence and abuse against women that continues to plague society. Rubenhold contextualises the deaths in our current culture well - examining how Victorian archetypes of "angel and whore" persist, and the Victorian media's and publication of the Ripper story which was heavily embedded in the idea that bad girls deserve punishment - has also persisted. Rubenhold critiques the mythology around JTR and similar serial killers, questioning why we praise their ~twisted genius~ in getting away with violent crimes against women, whilst also sweeping the victims lives under the rug. I think some of the reviews saying this book tries to sympathise the victims because they weren't prostitutes isn't exactly what Rubenhold is trying to do. In fact, she explicitly outlines in the conclusion that it doesn't matter whether or not they were sex workers - they didn't deserve to die and they were complex women with whole lives. I think, however, she's trying to deconstruct the trope that all poor women are sex workers, and Jack the Ripper just hated sex workers (which was used to justify which his murders were okay) - when in reality it's more likely he just preyed on vulnerable women. "In order to gawk at this figure of malevolence, we have stepped over, and in some cases, figuratively kicked, the corpses of the women he killed. I can only give it a four-star though - because the author engages in a little bit too much conjecture or me. I appreciate how difficult this would have been to piece together the research but that said, some of the assumptions made felt unfounded to me. "She must have felt this", "she must have done this" and similar statements rubbed me a little bit the wrong way. I appreciated Rubenhold trying to humanise the victims by assigning them these feelings and ideas but it strayed a little too far for me. Some of the conclusions felt like reaches. That said, I still think it's clear an enormous amount of research went into this - so I still really enjoyed it despite a few 'uhh' moments from me. Overall, I highly recommend picking this up if you have an interest in Jack the Ripper, victorian lives -or just want a great insight into five women's who's deaths have far out shadowed their lives in the public consciousness.

  22. 4 out of 5

    The Book Review Café

    I have read many true crime books over the years, and they have always focused on infamous killers with little thought given to the victims. I’m sure you can all think of a list of infamous killers, but can you remember any of the victims’ names or their life stories? Probably not I know I can’t, which is desperately sad. This book provides the reader with an incredible insight into the five victims of Jack The Ripper, Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane. Yes, they were victims of I have read many true crime books over the years, and they have always focused on infamous killers with little thought given to the victims. I’m sure you can all think of a list of infamous killers, but can you remember any of the victims’ names or their life stories? Probably not I know I can’t, which is desperately sad. This book provides the reader with an incredible insight into the five victims of Jack The Ripper, Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane. Yes, they were victims of the most atrocious crimes, but Helen Rubenhold’s The Five finally gives these women a voice. Beautifully written the author brings 1888 London to life, but more importantly she brings to life the five women, giving them back their dignity, which for almost 150 years they have been cruelly denied. As a reader of true crime I have read many books on Jack The Ripper and many of them describe the five victims as prostitutes, a fact that obscured the truth about the women’s real life’s, (only one of the five women sold her body for money). Even back in 1888 the victims of Jack The Ripper were blighted by ‘here say’ and speculation, they were shaped and embellished to make the crimes more newsworthy (sound familiar?). As most of the victims had no permanent roof over their heads or a husband to protect them, they were seen to be outcasts and so considered to be corrupt and impure, they faced violence, abuse, lived day to day, hungry, cold and unloved, was it any wonder every single one of the woman had struggled with alcohol addiction. Towards the end of their short life’s circumstances for each woman changed, either through bad choices or misfortune. Perceived to be either “broken women” or “fallen women” It’s at this point they were treated with contempt, and even in death the rumour mill spewed false accusations and showed little sympathy for the Ripper’s victims. None of the women were treated as individual victims in death, but were banded together as victims of “an unfortunate class”, which made me angry and incredibly sad. For the first time ever someone has taken the time to share their stories, they are desperately sad and harrowing but at the same time we see them as wife’s, daughters, and mothers, who faced adversary, and poverty, where every day was a struggle for survival, sometimes wrong choices were made, but then the choices these women had were very limited by circumstances. Helen Rubenhold’s descriptions of a London in 1888 are vividly described, the sounds, the smells, the doss houses, overcrowded slums, the pubs, transport you back to an age where poverty, malnutrition and disease were rife. It’s obvious the author has extensively researched her subject. Although some parts are speculative, she has incorporated as much factual detail where ever possible. I should mention, if you’re expecting gruesome details of the murders of these five women, or another theory to the ripper’s identity then this book won’t be for you. If you are looking for a powerful book, that blends true crime and one that’s rich in historical detail, that gives a voice to #FiveWoman, Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane, then The Five is definitely a book I would recommend. All my reviews can be found at http://thebookreviewcafe.com

  23. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    I'm going to talk about this book to everyone until they tell me to shut up. Brilliant, totally fucking brilliant. The research that's gone into this piece of work is extraordinary.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper. (hardback) by Hallie Rubenhold. This is a non-fiction book that after all these many years of misinformation the truth is being revealed. The author has done a superlative job in researching each victims lives prior to their murder. These women were victims long before Jack the Ripper destroyed them completely. Society in England in the 19th century was heinously misogynist. The destitute families and the rampant alcoholism made The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper. (hardback) by Hallie Rubenhold. This is a non-fiction book that after all these many years of misinformation the truth is being revealed. The author has done a superlative job in researching each victims lives prior to their murder. These women were victims long before Jack the Ripper destroyed them completely. Society in England in the 19th century was heinously misogynist. The destitute families and the rampant alcoholism made their survival possible but could not erase their misfortune. To paraphrase the authors' last sentences The victims were wives, daughter, sisters, mothers, and wives. They were women and in that era that made them, less than of any importance in society. They were human beings. This book should be read and the lives of these five women understood. The victorian age is not innocent for their demise.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Erin Clemence

    “Their worth was compromised before they had even attempted to prove it. They would never earn the income of a man; therefore their education was of less importance. What work they could secure was designed to help support their families; it was not intended to bring them fulfillment, a sense of purpose or personal contentment”. “The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper” by Hallie Rubenhold is the first historical non-fiction novel I’ve ever read and I thoroughly “Their worth was compromised before they had even attempted to prove it. They would never earn the income of a man; therefore their education was of less importance. What work they could secure was designed to help support their families; it was not intended to bring them fulfillment, a sense of purpose or personal contentment”. “The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper” by Hallie Rubenhold is the first historical non-fiction novel I’ve ever read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As an avid Ripper fan, Ms. Rubenhold makes me feel instantly guilty for it. She declares that by fawning over Jack the Ripper and his psychotic killing spree, we don’t focus on the victims. Although this happens in today’s society too often as well, Ms. Rubenhold suggests that the women killed by Jack the Ripper are not featured in current analysis or discussions because they were supposedly women of “ill repute” and therefore not worth mentioning. “The Five” discusses the lives of Polly, Annie, Elisabeth, Catherine (Kate) and Mary Jane, women who all had one thing in common- they had been abandoned in one way or another by their male partners and were forced to find a way to survive in prudish Victorian England. Some had turned to “sleeping rough” (sleeping on the streets) , all of them had turned to drink, but in fact, only one of them was a self-identified prostitute. Their murders are not discussed in any detail at all, but we are able to learn the struggles these women were faced with, and the aftermath of their deaths’ that basically resulted in their names being forgotten. I enjoyed learning more about the Victorian era, outside of the idealized Charles Dickens universe we see detailed in movies, specifically the antiquated beliefs and laws, and how they affected single women. All of the women murdered by Jack the Ripper were worthy of empathy, and they definitely garnered mine. Cleverly told, this novel is definitely one that will generate a lot of talking points. There are many deep emotions stirred, and a lot of pertinent topics that are still highly relevant today. Although, I must admit, I cannot completely give up my obsession with all things Ripper, I will definitely consider the victims and the biases they faced when reading future novels.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)

    The fact that I listened to this on audiobook in just six days says it all. I couldn’t ‘put it down’, so to speak. It’s a powerful feminist corrective to the narrative of the victims of Jack the Ripper, which determinedly focuses on the five women’s lives rather than on their deaths or the pathology of the man who murdered them. Mileage may vary on the dramatic evocation of emotions, but the archival research and the cultural and social scene-setting is extraordinarily well done. Do read it, The fact that I listened to this on audiobook in just six days says it all. I couldn’t ‘put it down’, so to speak. It’s a powerful feminist corrective to the narrative of the victims of Jack the Ripper, which determinedly focuses on the five women’s lives rather than on their deaths or the pathology of the man who murdered them. Mileage may vary on the dramatic evocation of emotions, but the archival research and the cultural and social scene-setting is extraordinarily well done. Do read it, whether you enjoy True Crime or not.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marialyce

    I got through 53% of this book and am going to push it aside. It is way too full of details and I feel the story of these unfortunate girls is getting weighed down by too many elements that are not necessary. Perhaps, I will pick it up once again at a later time.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    The public has long been fascinated by Jack the Ripper and many books have been written as to who he might have been. But how many books have been written about the five known victims who were "just prostitutes".......or were they? The author took on a huge challenge as she researched the lives of each of these women since the information concerning them was vague or not available. And her research is thorough and, frankly, amazing. Information about "the five" is scant but it does exist and one The public has long been fascinated by Jack the Ripper and many books have been written as to who he might have been. But how many books have been written about the five known victims who were "just prostitutes".......or were they? The author took on a huge challenge as she researched the lives of each of these women since the information concerning them was vague or not available. And her research is thorough and, frankly, amazing. Information about "the five" is scant but it does exist and one of the beliefs that all the victims were prostitutes is not necessarily true. Granted, these women were down on their luck, lived in the poverty of Whitechapel, and suffered from alcoholism but three of them lived with men who scraped by in odd jobs and supported them, just barely. The women also made minimal money by sewing and hop picking in the summer months.. The only other opportunity to have money for a room in a flophouse was to turn to prostitution but not all of them did, as far as the author can discover. It is a sad story of women in a strictly enforced society who had no way out of their situations and were easy prey for the Ripper. The story is engrossing and enlightening and finally recognizes that the victims were women who were slaughtered by a madman and deserve to be recognized as human beings. Recommended.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    The Five . Who were they? Mary Ann “Polly" Nichols. Annie Chapman. Elisabeth Stride. Catherine Eddowes. Mary Jane Kelly. Who were they? At the time of their deaths in 1888, they were labeled “prostitutes,” although the majority were not. Rather, they were working-class women who fell upon hard times and on the night of their deaths (with the exception of Mary Jane Kelly), found themselves sleeping rough – on the street without shelter. The author, Hallie Rubenhold, suggests that rather than The Five . Who were they? Mary Ann “Polly" Nichols. Annie Chapman. Elisabeth Stride. Catherine Eddowes. Mary Jane Kelly. Who were they? At the time of their deaths in 1888, they were labeled “prostitutes,” although the majority were not. Rather, they were working-class women who fell upon hard times and on the night of their deaths (with the exception of Mary Jane Kelly), found themselves sleeping rough – on the street without shelter. The author, Hallie Rubenhold, suggests that rather than being slain during a sexual act as many believed, they were likely killed in their sleep. Those who anticipate this work of non-fiction to be another Jack the Ripper tale, for better or for worse, will either be relieved or disappointed. Ms Rubenhold barely mentions the killer. The Five is an in-depth look at the background of the women starting with their lives as children. Times were difficult for working folks who were uneducated and poor. Girls left their families to work while in their teens. They married young, had many children, often lost them due to difficulties in childbirth or illness, and were forced to find menial labor to help support the family. Housing was cramped, filthy, cold, and damp. Food was unappealing and nutrition was poor. Alcoholism was rampant. Alcohol, according to Ms Rubenhold’s research, is what led to each of the five women’s problems. As we know today, it is difficult to maintain health relationships when one’s primary love is with alcohol or drugs. In the 19th Century, the only ways a woman could survive were to go to the workhouse, become involved in the sex trade, or find a man to partner with, even if they did not wed. Therefore, each of these women appears to have had a history of serial relationships with men. They were rejected by husbands and families and were considered to be both “broken” and “fallen” women. Yet, those who really knew them, considered them to be lovely, gentle souls – when they were sober. As someone who seldom reads non-fiction, I had difficulty when I first began reading this book. The sheer weight of the atmosphere cast by the lifestyles Polly and Annie was so gloomy and depressing that I considered stopping. However, by the time I got to Elisabeth, I felt more engaged. Elisabeth was born in Sweden and immigrated to London to get a new start. Unfortunately, for her and the others, being female was a big strike against them. Add in their social status and their lack of education and opportunity, and there was a recipe for disaster. Hallie Rubenhold’s extensive research is quite evident. She does piece together the facts with bits of what seem to be educated guesses, using phrases such as “she would have...” in piecing together a woman’s timeline. I don’t think this necessarily invalidates her research, however, as she cites numerous sources documenting life of those times, including periodicals, biographies, and so on. What was most impressive to me was that Hallie Rubenhold has looked at these ghastly, unsolved 19th Century serial murders from the perspective of the women who died. They were human beings. They were daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, lovers, friends. They had problems, to be sure. They did not deserve to die. They certainly did not deserve to die in such horrendous fashion. They mattered. Polly. Annie. Elisabeth. Catherine. Mary Jane. 3.5 rounded to 4 stars

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    I think it's commendable to focus on the lives of victims and the circumstance of the time. However the author seems, like a victorian snob, obsessed about elevating social status of the victims. For example she speculates that Mary Kelly was from a higher class. This seems to be solely based on a comment that she was, 'an artist of some measure'. On this basis the author jumps to conclusion that she had artistic training, and was therefore posh, without any particular evidence. What else could I think it's commendable to focus on the lives of victims and the circumstance of the time. However the author seems, like a victorian snob, obsessed about elevating social status of the victims. For example she speculates that Mary Kelly was from a higher class. This seems to be solely based on a comment that she was, 'an artist of some measure'. On this basis the author jumps to conclusion that she had artistic training, and was therefore posh, without any particular evidence. What else could explain this? For a start, what one person considers artistic ability may not be of any formal standard. Also (surprisingly) sometimes even working people can draw. She also concocts a story that Kelly was taken to France against her will, again without any evidence. She continues on in this tone. Having found her conclusions and looking for the facts that fit. Also she also ignores contemporary statements that Annie Chapman and Polly Nicholls were prostitutes, not just by police but by women who knew them. In the case of Polly, there was an entire court case, hinging on the fact. I mention this, not because I think its generally important but because it's a central theme of the book. Ultimately the self riteous tone, and cherry picking, undermines what could have been an important and enlightening book.

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