Book Reviews · Non-fiction

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

While it’s been a couple of months since my last post about a non-fiction title, I have been doing a significant amount of non-fiction reading recently. One of the non-fiction books I had an opportunity to read toward the end of May was The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper.

“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.”

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, by Hallie Rubenhold (pg. 295)

In The Five, author Hallie Rubenhold explores the lives of the women who were murdered by Jack the Ripper during his killing spree in the East End of London in 1888.

These women include: Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly.

The book not only discusses the women’s lives around the time of the murders, but delves into their pasts as well, sharing information about their parents and childhoods (when possible), their own marriages and families, and their descents into poverty and (in some cases) homelessness.

It also challenges the long-accepted theory that Jack the Ripper targeted prostitutes, asserting that three of the five women were not actually involved in prostitution at all.

I thought this book was fascinating, and had a very hard time putting it down. I really appreciated the fact that the author chose to focus on the Ripper’s victims, as opposed to the investigation into the Ripper’s identity, since it’s a side of the story that is not often told in any great detail (either in non-fiction or fictional accounts). The book ultimately shows how difficult life was for a lower-class woman during the Victorian Era, and really makes you think.

I enjoyed the book so much that after returning the ebook I’d borrowed to the library, I decided to purchase a physical copy for myself.

I do think it is important to mention that this book does include content which may make some readers uncomfortable. In addition to information about the murders themselves, the author discusses issues of sexual consent, alcoholism, physical assault, human trafficking, and the threat and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

Whether you are interested in the Jack the Ripper case, true crime, or the darker side of the Victorian Era, I highly recommend taking the time to read The Five. It’s a really interesting book, and one that I think will appeal to both history buffs and true crime aficionados.

If you do have an opportunity to read The Five for yourself, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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