Book Review: The Five - The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper - Hallie Rubenhold

Book Review: The Five – The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper – 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.

I saw this book advertised and thought it looked intriguing after seeing it on a YouTube channel – a few days later it appeared as an Audible deal so I snapped it up for £1.99 and I’m so glad I did.

The focus in history is always on Jack the Ripper. Who was he? What was his motive? What did these women do to cross his path? There was hardly a mention of them women, who they were and what happened in their lives. I’ll admit that like most people I hadn’t considered more than what I was told.

Learning about these women, about their lives, families and their circumstances was fascinating. The lengths that Rubenhold has gone to to research their stories is incredible and this deserves all of the awards it has won. The book is more than just life stories, we can look at Victorian society and the ever changing landscape of the industrial revolution and the people who were struggling to get by.

I had no idea about the level of addiction at the time for normal everyday people and the impact this had on women in particular. It also humanised these women, that they simply fell into hard times and paid the ultimate price. The suggestion that they were prostitutes were mostly unfounded and another hit at the ‘downtrodden women’.

Of course this is embellished for the book, there is no way of knowing what the women were thinking or their exact movements but this doesn’t take away from the information we are given. I am awestruck by Rubenhold’s ability to really draw us in to these women’s stories and feel for them.

Without a doubt this was a 5 star read for me. Seeing this other side of history feels like we are giving some kind of voice to those women who have been ignored in their own deaths. An excellent book and I would also highly recommend the audiobook.

What I Read In September 2019

It’s back to getting dark early and curling up with blankets which means my super charged reading months are coming! September, however, wasn’t my best reading month. I was crazy busy with work and birthday celebrations throughout September so audiobooks were my lifeline! I only finished 1 physical book in September which shows just how crazy busy things were! But let’s get into what I actually read.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Ah, Birdsong. What can I say about this book? It really wasn’t my cup of tea but it was my book club read so I had a bit of a struggle to get through.

I can appreciate why people do like this book but I didn’t like it. I felt it was too long and it could have been half the length and still made the point. I gave it 2.5 stars.

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

This was an Audible deal that I purchased with the intent to listen to then I saw it on Lauren Wade’s YouTube channel and listened to it a bit sooner.

I thought this was an excellent read focusing on the women who were murdered by Jack The Ripper. This gave so much information on each woman, where they came from, how they grew up, changes in circumstances and a lot of myth busting. A 5 star read for me.

The Other Mother by Jen Brister

Audiobook number 2! The Other Mother was excellent and super funny. This followers Jen Brister’s experience being the ‘other mother’ in a same sex relationship and chronicles parenthood for her. A great laugh and really interesting read another 5 star read.

Sex, Power, Money by Sara Pascoe

Aaaand another audiobook (thank god for being able to buy extra credits on Audible). I really liked Sara’s first book Animal and so picked this up too. As well as being an excellent comedian Sara is also a great writer. This is really in depth and I learnt a lot from it. It was a 4.5 star read for me.

Archie 1941 – Mark Wade

I really enjoyed this one I got for my birthday. I like Archie comics and they’re putting Archie and the gang in different decades, this one did have a lot of heart behind it and I wish it had been longer! 4.5 stars from me.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Artwork by Emily Carroll

I’ve heard a lot about Speak as a novel and it’s been one I wanted to get to and then I saw an early copy of the graphic novel at YALC this year and knew I wanted to read it in this format first. I didn’t regret it the words and illustration worked beautifully together and I still want to read the novel of Speak. A 5 star read for me.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With MeMariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

My friend got me this for my birthday. I’d heard a little bit about this being a graphic novel with great LGBT rep and added it to another list (I know, there are a lot of lists). This was a great read and surprised me in places. Seeing as there is a big 1 on the side I’m hoping this is the start of a series, another 5 star!

What did you read in September? Let me know in the comments below! 👇