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The Five: The Lives of Jack the Ripper's Women
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The Five: The Lives of Jack the Ripper's Women

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4.12  ·  Rating details ·  26,530 ratings  ·  4,020 reviews
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
...more
Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published February 1st 2019)
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Popular Answered Questions
Sarah You could probably tailor some "standard" book club questions to the genre and style of the book and add some specific to the subject matter of the bo…moreYou could probably tailor some "standard" book club questions to the genre and style of the book and add some specific to the subject matter of the book and its reception.
eg.
What did you enjoy the most/least about this book?
What did you find the most surprising?
Which of the five victims' stories did you find the most intriguing or resonating? Why? Have you previously read any other books about the crimes of Jack the Ripper? How did this book vary?
Do you feel a basic knowledge of the Ripper crimes is necessary to get the most out of this book? Why or why not? Did this book change your perspective on the crimes of Jack the Ripper? If so, how?
What do you think about the author's research for this book? Did you feel the sources the author used were credible and well-balanced?
How do you think female victims of violent crime are represented in the media?
How are they perceived by members of the public and the justice system?
Do you think this has changed significantly since the late 19th century? If so, how and why?
Why has the mainstream Ripper "narrative" assumed that all five victims were prostitutes and why is this relevant?
The author has received substantial criticism from "Ripperologists" since this book was published, principally because of her suggestion that three of the five victims were not at the time of their deaths, and never were, prostitutes (see: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2...). Why do you think the book has prompted this reaction from some quarters? Do you think it is justified?(less)
Shanna Yes, it did change. She was born with the spelling Elisabeth in Sweden. She changed it to Elizabeth when she moved to London per her English records. …moreYes, it did change. She was born with the spelling Elisabeth in Sweden. She changed it to Elizabeth when she moved to London per her English records. It says this on the bottom of page 159.(less)

Community Reviews

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Emily May
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Emily May by: Tatiana
Shelves: nonfiction, 2020
This is the tale of 1887 that most chose to forget.

Tatiana already wrote the perfect review for this book, so a lot of my review is just going to be reiterating her points.

I thought The Five was genuinely hard to put down. Rubenhold takes us back to the grim, dingy streets of Victorian London and attempts to follow the life stories of each of the five confirmed victims of Jack the Ripper. Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane: women who have been largely buried by history, forgott
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Julie
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 collea
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Samantha Shannon
I've been waiting for someone to write this book for years.
Beata
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 Vi ...more
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 time
...more
Beverly
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 fac ...more
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
...more
~Bookishly
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,
...more
Fiona MacDonald
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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, ...more
Matt
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
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 a ...more
✨    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 surrounding Jack the Ripper 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
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Diane S ☔
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019
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 ...more
Tatiana
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

The purpose of this work had been to shine a light on the lives of Jack the Ripper's victims rather than the killer himself, and to disprove the popular assumption of all his victims being prostitutes. Did the author succeed?

What Rubenhold uncovered was that only one of the victims was a self-proclaimed prostitute, and the other four - homeless women suffering from mental issues and addictions and making their living any way they could, which included selling themselves or whatever skil
...more
Kimberly
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"It is for them that I write this book. I do so in the hope that we may now hear their stories clearly and give back to them that which was so brutally taken away with their lives: their dignity. "--Hallie Rubenhold

Before reading this book, I'm not sure I could have named any of the victims of Jack the Ripper. I thought the same as everyone else that they were prostitutes. Now, I think I have a better picture of these women and the lives they lived.

The Five is well written and it was difficult f
...more
K.J. Charles
Absolutely excellent, and it is astonishing (yet not surprising) that it's taken so long for there to be a book on this subject. The author has done an incredible job digging out the life stories of Jack the Ripper's victims, turning them from a set of faceless prostitutes whose lives only mattered because of the thrillingly bloody way they ended, back into the real people they were. (And of whom just two were actually sex workers, rather than just poor women.)

What comes across most strongly is
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Johann (jobis89)
“The victims of Jack the Ripper were never ‘just prostitutes’; they were daughters, wives, mothers, sisters and lovers. They were women. They were human beings, and surely that, in itself, is enough.”

Hands down, one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. In The Five, Hallie Rubenhold finally shines the spotlight on the victims of Jack the Ripper.

If you ask most people what they know about his victims, they will undoubtedly reply with “they were prostitutes”. This could not be further from
...more
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 poo ...more
Montzalee Wittmann
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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 gove
...more
Susan
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Katie Lumsden
Nov 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this - such a fascinating, moving, clever non-fiction. I highly, highly recommend this, especially for anyone interested in the Victorian period.
Libby
4+ stars - Hallie Rubenhold focuses on the lives of the five women who were the victims of Jack the Ripper. Leaving the infamous killer aside, which is just what Rubenhold does, the author creates a three-dimensional picture of the time and places in which these women moved, loved, lived, had children, and eventually died. It is an incredibly fascinating account and one that moves the intellect as well as the emotions. An immersive journey into the history of nineteenth-century England, especial ...more
Eleanor
Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(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 fo
...more
Bill Lynas
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 hu
...more
Ahmed  Ejaz
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
“It is for them that I write this book. I do so in the hope that we may now hear their stories clearly and give back to them that which was so brutally taken away with their lives: their dignity.”
It’s such an eye-opening book. It portrays a gloomy picture of Victorian England that sometimes I cringed, that how bad a life was for the working class at that time. It portrays everything in such a vivid manner you’ll actually feel the atmosphere of that age as if you are standing there
...more
Paul
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This work finally puts in place what has been missing from studies relating to Jack the Ripper: it focuses on the five women, not on the murderer or the methods of murder. Rubenhold has meticulously done her research and her gaze is directly on the five and not on the Ripper. She dedicates the book to the five. Rubenhold is very clear that the dismissal of the women as "just prostitutes" is entirely wrong. Only one, Mary Jane Kelly, had consistently worked as a prostitute, Elizabeth Stride had p ...more
Alice Lippart
Very interesting!
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 a
...more
Ingrid
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
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 mus ...more
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
I talk about this book in my video for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction 2019 Shortlist: https://youtu.be/mEmyvi4Y8RQ ...more
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There is nothing like reading a history or biography book and being so completely transported to another time and place that you find...
65 likes · 22 comments
“When a woman steps out of line and contravenes the feminine norm, whether on social media on on the Victorian street, there is a tacit understanding that somone must put her back in her place. Labelling the victims as 'just prostitutes' permits writing about Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Kate and Mary Jane even today to continue to disparage, sexualize and dehumanize them; to continue to reinforce values of madonna/whore.” 27 likes
“Just as it did in the nineteenth century, the notion that the victims were 'only prostitutes' seeks to perpetuate the belief that there are good women and bad women; madonnas and whores. It suggests that there is an acceptable standard of female behaviour and those that deviate from it are fit to be punished. Equally, it assists in reasserting the double standard , exonerating men from wrongs committed against such women. These attitudes may not feel as prevalent as they were in 1888, but they persist - not proffered in general conversation... but, rather integrated subtly into the fabric of our social norms.” 23 likes
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