THE FIVE: THE UNTOLD LIVES OF THE WOMEN KILLED BY JACK THE RIPPER BY HALLIE RUBENHOLD
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. 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.
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.
This was not at all what I was expecting and I loved it! It's a book that we read in our Book Club and I won't lie, I was afraid this would be too over the top with facts. However, Rubenhold does an outstanding job of bringing the stories of these poor women to life. It doesn't feel like you're reading a class room history book!
The book is hugely informative and I came away from it with a whole new perspective of life as a woman, particularly in London in the 1860s - they had it rough. I also loved that so much of what happened isn't far from where I live in London, it makes you see the streets and areas in a new light.
One thing I would have liked would have been some more information on the actual killings (I like gory details. I'm weird, I know). But in saying that, the fact that Rubenhold focuses solely on the Five and not on Jack the Ripper is what makes this book a triumph and true to what it stands for; telling their story and not his (if he is in fact a man!).
IN 3 WORDS/PHRASES:
“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.”
I'm not sure I could pick a 'favourite character' for this as the Five are all so similar as much as they are different. You connected with each of them on different levels and wanted to get to know them more.
MY OVERALL RATING: