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

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  2,527 ratings  ·  599 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 count

Kindle Edition, 415 pages
Published February 28th 2019 by Transworld Digital (first published February 1st 2019)
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4.35  · 
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 ·  2,527 ratings  ·  599 reviews

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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
Samantha Shannon
I've been waiting for someone to write this book for years.
Jo (A follower of wizards)
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,
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
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
Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it

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
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
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 f ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
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
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 t ...more
Montzalee Wittmann
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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 bei ...more
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, whe ...more
AMAZING book!!!!
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: whitechapel
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 ex
Trigger warnings: murder, misogyny, alcohol abuse, mentions of domestic violence, mentions of sex slavery, 19th century attitudes to mental health, death of a child.

I've been excited about this book from the moment I heard about it, and it didn't disappoint. Rubenhold has done a staggering amount of research on these five women, and the book is equal parts their stories and the social history of women in the 1880s. They were victims of circumstance as much as they were victims of the Ripper.

Susan Liston
Pretty amazing piece of research. How the author discovered so much detail about women who would be completely forgotten were they not victims of a horrific murderer is impressive. (and yes, she does indulge in conjecture, which sometimes really bugs me, but here it didn't particularly; you'd have do a certain amount of it in this case) And guess what, they were not all prostitutes, as we've always been led to believe, but homeless or nearly homeless women probably attacked in their sleep. How t ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was looking forward to reading this book and whilst there was much to like about it I felt that there was too many assumptions made. Here are three examples: 'it is likely that a 22 year-old servant called Annie Chapman was among them' . 'It is possible that she and George met somewhere near to his barracks on Portman Street'. 'A relation of Ruth's worked for a Sussex family who lived on nearby Clifton Place, where she too may have been employed'. These examples occurred in two paragraphs on p ...more
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper" by Hallie Rubenhold is excellent. It is not about Jack the Ripper and a retelling of the horrible acts he committed. Instead, it is about the lives of the women he murdered, misogyny, the harshness of the Victorian era, addiction, homelessness and I found it riveting and heartbreaking. I highly recommend it.
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
January Gray
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A unique look at the Jack The Ripper murders. The author really did her research! This book adds more heart, depth and history than others I have read about the Ripper.
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So often we hear stories of the murderer, but nothing of the victims. This author tells us the back story, fortunately omitting grisly details, of the five women thought to have been murdered in the late 1880’s by a serial killer called Jack the Ripper. These women were all pretty much homeless and alcoholic which was “entirely overlooked as a factor in their murders; a ‘houseless creature’ and a ‘prostitute’ by their moral failings were one and the same.” Their world was one of “poverty, homele ...more
May 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating book, not only for the author's sifting fact from myth, but because of its vivid rendering of the underbelly of Victorian London
Karon Buxton
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow I loved this book & if I hadn’t had to put it down to do chores & basically live I would have whipped through it in days . Without doubt it is the best non fiction book Iv read for a long long time ; a very sad social history but still so poignant in how poor women were treated by society and then portrayed by the police & media. These women were not “ bad” women they were victims not just of Jack the Ripper but of their circumstances, mental illness and poverty, and why are pros ...more
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love anything to do with Jack the Ripper and this book has to be my favourite out of everything I have read so far.

This book puts the whole killing spree into perspective as Hallie brings the victims to life, makes them people who lived and fought to survive. What I liked was her focus was on the ladies, not one bit gave time or attention to the murderer. It broke my heart to read about these women but, in all, I admired their strength and determination. Yes they made mistakes, they made the
Rachel McMillan
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
fantastic and gorgeously detailed look at the lives of five women immortalized in infamous history. a compassionate pen focuses on their backgrounds, loves, families and unfathomable hardships rather than the man who extinguished their lives.
Rubenhold looks at the lives of the women brutally taken from the world by the killer known as Jack the Ripper. Instead of focussing on the deaths, the monster and the subsequent investigation, this book tells the women's stories and how tragedy and alcohol brought them into the sphere of the Ripper. This is a reminder that the women were not all prostitutes, that they were real people with hopes and fears and all the issues that come with being human and that, even if they did work in the sex t ...more
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“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.” 8 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.” 6 likes
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