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 coffeehouses and 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.
Author: Hallie Rubenhold
Narrator: Louise Brealey
Publisher: Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
Running Time: 10hrs 20mins
Audio Release Date: 26/02/2019
My Rating of ‘The Five’: 5 out of 5
I absolutely loved this.
I love history and, growing up in England, Jack the Ripper is a massive part of our history. Sadly, what you never realise, and what this books hits you right in the guilt factory for, is that the women he killed never are. They are literally treated as little more than stepping stones to his infamy.
And that’s a dreadful shame.
This book looks deeply into the lives of the five women who were murdered by the serial killer labelled ‘Jack the Ripper’. By the end of this you come away, or at least I came away, feeling entirely different about the entire subject of the Ripper murders.
Each chapter is focused around one of the five women and does an excellent job of making the reader feel their highs and lows, live their hopes and dreams and, ultimately feel for their cruel deaths. The prevailing thoughts hanging around these poor young women is that they were all prostitutes. There was no evidence of this in four of the women’s cases, it was supposedly just something bleated out by the newspapers/officials to make the situation easier to understand and quantify.
Diving deeply into this subject makes you feel that, dressing a few victims up in a certain way, to fit a certain narrative, is an incredible injustice and, despite never actually having been associated with these women/their families in any way, I can’t help but feel outraged on their behalf.
So well done Hallie Rubenhold for getting those emotions flowing. Job done on your part.
By the sounds of the young women, they wouldn’t have been afforded much in the way of a grand celebration of their lives. They had loved ones who would have mourned and missed them greatly, but nothing even remotely akin to the fanfare their killer received.
This book gives them their time in the sun and the great celebration of their life that they wouldn’t have received at the time. It also does a good job of ignoring Jack the Ripper the for the vast majority. He is mentioned where necessary, but no more than that.
The narrator does an outstanding job. She’s also the actress who played Molly in the BBC adaptation of Sherlock. So the whole crime/detection theme runs all the way up to the narrator.