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Includes the names: Halli Rubenhold, Hallie Rubenhold

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BooksInMirror | 17 other reviews | Feb 19, 2024 |
The Five was a hard book to get through. I don't find reading non-fiction easy. Few non-fiction titles hold my interest if it's a physical book I'm reading, and I have learned that the best way to handle non-fiction is on audiobooks. For some reason I bought a paper copy of this book, maybe it wasn't available on the Scribd app? - and that was my undoing.

The book tells the story of the five canonical victims of Jack the Ripper. There may have been other victims, but these five - Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Mary - are the ones whom most historians accept were definitive victims of the Ripper. The book tells the story of their lives. I will easily admit that the record-searching and novel ways of finding out facts about their lives was nothing short of breathtaking. For most of the women Rubenhold can give meticulous details about their clothing, their lives, where they lived, why they turned to prostitution. As an act of research, it is excellent. As an act of entertaining and informing her readers, she falls down in my opinion.

One thing that evoked the strongest of pity from me is an appendix to the book, which lists exactly what each woman owned at the time of their murders. These are some of the saddest lists I've ever seen. Polly owned only the clothes she stood up in. That's all. The other women owned little more. Feeling poor because I couldn't afford portabella mushrooms today (they were $13.00 EACH), is a far cry from the utter poverty of Victorian London. If I ever get a time machine, that is not an era to which I will venture.

Two stars for research well done; three missing because it took me two weeks to read a 330 page book because it was so dull.
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ahef1963 | 65 other reviews | Nov 25, 2023 |
This book focuses on the lives of the five accepted or 'canonical' victims of the murderer known as Jack the Ripper. Through the documentary evidence that does exist - birth, marriage and death certificates, census returns and in one case, a letter from a sister of one victim published in a newspaper - the author attempts to build a picture of the life of each woman and the individual tragedies that led to four of them being homeless. Drink played a big part in the social descent of most of them from relatively prosperous lifestyles and, despite the censorious and titillating attitude of the newspapers at the time, only one was a prostitute. Ironically, she had had a comfortable existence in the West End until being forced to lie low in Whitechapel through no fault of her own.

There is a lot of interesting information on the lives of the poor in Victorian Britain and the double disadvantage of being female as well as poor. Some of the narrative is speculative but the author is honest where that is the case. The suggestion that the target victims were attacked while sleeping was a novel one to me and made sense. I found it an absorbing read and would award it 4 stars.
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kitsune_reader | 65 other reviews | Nov 23, 2023 |
What a sympathetic view of the victims of Jack the Ripper. I was a bit hesitant to read this, thinking that eventually Jack would take centre stage and his victims would, once again be largely ignored. I was so wrong, and glad I was wrong.

If you are interested in this period of history, and would like to read something that doesn't focus on the man, pick this up you won't be disappointed.
 
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Melline | 65 other reviews | Oct 24, 2023 |

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