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The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women…
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The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper (original 2019; edition 2020)

by Hallie Rubenhold (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5883128,914 (4.28)65
THE #1 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER WINNER OF THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NONFICTION 2019 'An angry and important work of historical detection, calling time on the misogyny that has fed the Ripper myth. Powerful and shaming' GUARDIAN 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. Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become far more famous than any of these five women. Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, historian Hallie Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, and gives these women back their stories. WINNER OF THE GOODREADS CHOICE AWARDS FOR HISTORY 2019 PRAISE FOR THE FIVE 'Gripping' New York Times 'At last, the Ripper's victims get a voice... An eloquent, stirring challenge to reject the prevailing Ripper myth.' MAIL ON SUNDAY 'Devastatingly good. The Five will leave you in tears, of pity and of rage.' LUCY WORSLEY 'Dignity is finally returned to these unfortunate women.' PROFESSOR DAME SUE BLACK 'Haunting' SUNDAY TIMES 'What a brilliant and necessary book' JO BAKER, author of Longbourn 'Beautifully written and with the grip of a thriller, it will open your eyes and break your heart.' ERIN KELLY 'An outstanding work of history-from-below ... magnificent' THE SPECTATOR 'Deeply researched' THE NEW YORKER AWARDS FOR THE FIVE - Winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-fiction 2019 - Hay Festival Book of the Year 2019 - Shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction - Shortlisted for the Historical Writers' Association Non-Fiction Crown Award - A New York Times, Sunday Times, Daily Mail, GQ, Washington Post, Oprah Winfrey Magazine and Independent Summer read/History Book of the Year - Winner of the Goodreads Choice Awards for History 2019… (more)
Member:KShannahan
Title:The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper
Authors:Hallie Rubenhold (Author)
Info:Mariner Books (2020), Edition: Reprint, 368 pages
Collections:Wishlist
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The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold (2019)

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» See also 65 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
I thought this would be interesting, a book about the victims of Jack the Ripper instead of theories about the killer himself, and Rubenhold is usually an engrossing writer - but I just don't feel that there is a whole book in the lives of 'the five', Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly. Of course they were human beings and didn't deserve to die in such vicious attacks, that should go without saying. Rubenhold has done her research, although she admits that most of the official paperwork about their deaths is missing and getting straight facts from the press of the time is a historical minefield, yet I felt like I was being beaten over the head with a feminist agenda rather than reading about the lives of five individual women in Victorian London. No, they might not all technically have been classed as 'prostitutes', but what does that matter? One of them certainly was, and the rest were alcoholics whose family lives fell apart and left them either in the workhouse or on the streets. They were killed because they were defenceless, basically. Rubenhold throwing a strop because the women are still grouped together in the popular imagination as sex workers who somehow deserved their fates doesn't make their deaths more tragic. The vast range of subjects covered while dancing around the scant information about the lives of the women was instructional, though, from chapmen to the workhouse. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Sep 9, 2020 |
Popular history at its very best, the book explores the lives of the five women whose deaths were attributed to Jack the Ripper. Rubenhold includes wonderful details that flesh out the places of that era, even if they don't always apply directly to the woman she's discussing -- sort of factually-based creative non-fiction, if you like. The theme of women being considered as prostitutes when they weren't runs throughout the book, and the making of that argument seems to dominate a bit too much. There's nothing wrong with being a prostitute. But knowing that these women probably weren't (most of them had bad luck and/or problems with drink) provides insight into the ways in which the whole Ripper case has been mishandled by both the police at the time and historians now. ( )
  lisahistory | Sep 1, 2020 |
I'd like to buy this book. It's a wonderfully exhaustive account of the five known victims of the serial killer known as "Jack the Ripper", from their births until their last hours. It threats these women with deep respect, and avoids the assumptions and stereotypes common to retellings of this story. It also provided a fascinating glimpse into the life of a working class Victorian woman. 10/10 ( )
  Rachel_Hultz | Aug 15, 2020 |
3.5/5 ( )
  jocelynelise_ | Aug 10, 2020 |
The fibers that have clung to and defined the shape of Polly, Annie, Elisabeth,
Kate, and Mary Jane’s stories are the values of the Victorian world. They are male, authoritarian, and middle class. They were formed at a time when women had no voice, and few rights, and the poor were considered lazy and degenerate: to have been both of these things was one of the worst possible combinations.


Jack the Ripper murdered five London women in 1888, but was never identified or caught, and his gruesome story has fascinated people ever since. But the victims were summarily dismissed as “just prostitutes,” as if that were sufficient reason for them to lose their lives. The Five sets out to redress this wrong by piecing together public records, disparate news accounts, and other sources to tell the life stories of each victim. Hallie Rubenhold spends absolutely zero time on the details of each murder or the murderer himself. Instead, she tells us about the family each victim was born into, her adult life, and the circumstances which led to living in the Whitechapel area where the murders occurred. More often than not, the women's lives took a turn for the worse as the result of a marriage gone bad, widowhood, or being orphaned while still unmarried. A woman alone or with dependents would have found it nearly impossible to survive; there was no way for her to earn a living. In these circumstances it was imperative they become attached to another man who would provide for them, but decisions made in desperation rarely had positive outcomes. Add homelessness and alcohol to the mix and all hope of stability was lost. The five victims inevitably found themselves walking the streets of London, not as prostitutes but simply in search of one night’s food and shelter. When they ended up sleeping rough in a dark alleyway, their lives were even more at risk.

The low value placed on women’s lives means that sometimes details are scarce, and Rubenhold’s research often strayed into adjacent spaces in order to paint a picture of how the victim might have lived. The author is very clear about when she is reporting facts about the victim, and when she is connecting dots to reach a plausible conclusion. While the victims’ stories are sad, I was also left feeling angry at a society that placed women at such disadvantage, and often continues to do so today. ( )
  lauralkeet | Aug 5, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
These were not the kinds of lives that leave an extensive record, yet Rubenhold is able to weave a vivid narrative of Victorian working-class life from small factual scraps that she unearthed in police records, government reports and church registers ...The specter of illicit sex still haunts the Ripper story, an unkillable ghost that makes the crimes seem more titillating and their victims more expendable. Rubenhold’s account, however, makes a compelling case that the real monster shadowing these women’s lives was alcoholism ... Though we know how these women’s stories play out, Rubenhold achieves much here by making us feel genuine sadness and anger at their loss.
added by Lemeritus | editThe Washington Post, Joanna Scutts (pay site) (May 17, 2019)
 
This book is a poignant but absorbing exploration of the reality of working women’s lives in the late 19th century—and how perilously easy it was for married women with children to find themselves reduced to seeking shelter in the dank courts and alleyways around Spitalfields, where the Ripper operated. It is a book that brings a whole new meaning to the phrase 'Victorian values.'
added by Lemeritus | editThe Sunday Times, Daisy Goodwin (pay site) (Feb 17, 2019)
 
If the Dickensian emphasis is a touch overdone, the point remains ... Allowing that the documentary record is incomplete—the case files on three of the five murders have gone missing—Rubenhold urges us to see the victims...not as the 'fallen women' of the received record. A lively if morbid exercise in Victorian social history essential to students of Ripperiana.
added by Lemeritus | editKirkus Reviews (Feb 3, 2019)
 
Hallie Rubenhold’s book about the 'canonical' victims of Jack the Ripper is, at one level, a victim impact statement ... What she has to say on that topic is as horrifying as the Ripper’s crimes ... Rubenhold is an engaging writer though, as she readily admits, these women’s lives were not well documented before they achieved their notoriety, and the reports that followed their murders are not reliable. Then, too, there is a certain grim monotony as we follow the five in their doleful circuit from poor house to flop house to the streets where they would be killed. Still, Rubenhold does a commendable job in bringing these women on stage and through their stories illuminating the appalling reality behind the veneer of Victorian complacency.
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hallie Rubenholdprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brealey, LouiseNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We've been taught that silence would save us, but it won't. -Audre Lorde
Dedication
For May Ann "Polly" Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elisabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes & Mary Jane Kelly
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The cylinders turned. The belts moved, and gears clicked and whirred, as type and ink pressed against paper.
There are two versions of the events of 1887. One is very well known, but the other is not. -Introduction
Quotations
When you enter the kitchen of a doss-'ouse, it would be a mistake to suppose that all the people you meet there are going to spend the night under its roof. Many of them are reg'lar'uns, who, in consideration of their constant patronage are permitted to spend the evening, or portion of it, before the blazing coke fire, for though the deputy will give no trust, he knows better than to offend a regular lodger. As the evening wears on, however, these poor wretches become restless and moody. They pace the floor with their hands in their otherwise empty pockets, glancing towards the door at each fresh arrival to see if a "pal" has come in from whom it may be possible to borrow the halfpence necessary to complete their doss money. At last, their final hope being gone, they shuffle out into the streets and prepare to spend the night with only the sky for a canopy." - Howard Goldsmid
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THE #1 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER WINNER OF THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NONFICTION 2019 'An angry and important work of historical detection, calling time on the misogyny that has fed the Ripper myth. Powerful and shaming' GUARDIAN 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. Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become far more famous than any of these five women. Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, historian Hallie Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, and gives these women back their stories. WINNER OF THE GOODREADS CHOICE AWARDS FOR HISTORY 2019 PRAISE FOR THE FIVE 'Gripping' New York Times 'At last, the Ripper's victims get a voice... An eloquent, stirring challenge to reject the prevailing Ripper myth.' MAIL ON SUNDAY 'Devastatingly good. The Five will leave you in tears, of pity and of rage.' LUCY WORSLEY 'Dignity is finally returned to these unfortunate women.' PROFESSOR DAME SUE BLACK 'Haunting' SUNDAY TIMES 'What a brilliant and necessary book' JO BAKER, author of Longbourn 'Beautifully written and with the grip of a thriller, it will open your eyes and break your heart.' ERIN KELLY 'An outstanding work of history-from-below ... magnificent' THE SPECTATOR 'Deeply researched' THE NEW YORKER AWARDS FOR THE FIVE - Winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-fiction 2019 - Hay Festival Book of the Year 2019 - Shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction - Shortlisted for the Historical Writers' Association Non-Fiction Crown Award - A New York Times, Sunday Times, Daily Mail, GQ, Washington Post, Oprah Winfrey Magazine and Independent Summer read/History Book of the Year - Winner of the Goodreads Choice Awards for History 2019

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