Cover Image: The Five

The Five

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Member Reviews

I think that the students in our school library need to hear lots of diverse voices and read stories and lives of many different kinds of people and experiences. When I inherited the library it was an incredibly sanitised space with only 'school readers' and project books on 'the railways' etc. Buying in books that will appeal to the whole range of our readers with diverse voices, eclectic and fascinating subject matter, and topics that will intrigue and fascinate them was incredibly important to me.
This is a book that I think our senior readers will enjoy very much indeed - not just because it's well written with an arresting voice that will really keep them reading and about a fascinating topic - but it's also a book that doesn't feel worthy or improving, it doesn't scream 'school library and treats them like young reading adults who have the right to explore a range of modern diverse reads that will grip and intrigue them and ensure that reading isn't something that they are just forced to do for their English project - this was a solid ten out of ten for me and I'm hoping that our students are as gripped and caught up in it as I was. It was one that I stayed up far too late reading and one that I'll be recommending to the staff as well as our senior students - thank you so much for the chance to read and review; I really loved it and can't wait to discuss it with some of our seniors once they've read it too!
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By today's standards, sadly, a mass murderer or serial killer who kills five women is hardly even worthy of front page news.  But mention the name Jack the Ripper and most people will have at the very least heard the name and many will know he was a notorious killer from the late 1800's, and those who think they are moderately knowledgeable will say he killed five prostitutes in the Whitechapel area of London.

There is no shortage of books about Jack the Ripper, fiction and non-fiction alike. Author Hallie Rubenhold takes a new direction here however. Rather than looking at Jack the Ripper and his heinous murders, she looks at the five women the Ripper is believed to have killed.

The common perception is that Jack the Ripper murdered five prostitutes.  But as Rubenhold asserts in her preface:
<blockquote>There is, and never was, any proof of this either. To the contrary — over the course of the coroner’s inquests, it became known that Jack the Ripper never had sex with a single victim. Additionally, in the case of each murder there were no signs of struggle and the killings appear to have taken place in complete silence. There were no screams heard by anyone in the vicinity. The autopsies concluded that all of the women were killed while in a reclining position. In at least three of the cases, the victims were known to sleep on the street and on the nights they were killed did not have money for a lodging house. In the final case, the victim was murdered in her bed. However, the police were so committed to their theories about the killer’s choice of victims that they failed to conclude the obvious — the Ripper targeted women while they slept.</blockquote>
Using statements made by those who knew the victims best, Rubenhold makes a very strong case for the fact that these women, from very diverse backgrounds, had fallen on hard times (sometimes by their own making) yet none had been actively engaged in prostitution.

This information is essentially covered in the preface, but Rubenhold goes on with exhaustive research into each of these women and shares their life stories - brief as the available information might be. What this does is remind us that these victims - Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elisabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, Mary Jane Kelly - are more than just names, famous for the terrifying name of their killer.  They were daughters, mothers, sisters, wives.

Rubenhold gives us a surprising amount of information about these women, especially given that:
<blockquote>The cards were stacked against Polly, Annie, Elisabeth, Kate, and Mary Jane from birth. They began their lives in deficit. Not only were most of them born into working-class families; they were also born female. Before they had even spoken their first words or taken their first steps, they were regarded as less important than their brothers and more of a burden on the world than their wealthier female counterparts. Their worth was compromised before they had even attempted to prove it.</blockquote>
I can honestly say that this changed how I think about the events of the Ripper murders, and it will have an affect on how I think about the victims of violent crimes in the future.

I've been fascinated by the Ripper legends for a very long time.  It probably started when I first the Star Trek episode, <em>Wolf in the Fold</em>, sometime in the early 1970's. I then read nearly every book I could find on the subject, wrote papers about it in college, and even wrote a full-length play with my theory of who the Ripper was (that play safely tucked away in a folder, deep in my file cabinet). In all that time, though, I never thought about these women other than as victims and as prostitutes. This book is fascinating and a great reminder that the crimes committed by the Ripper, were committed against people who lived and dreamed.

Looking for a good book? <em>The Five</em>, by Hallie Rubenhold, is a new, very human, approached to the Jack the Ripper murders, looking at the victims, and reminding us, not only were they not five prostitutes, as the media of the time sensationalized them, but women with histories and families and struggling to survive despite the odds against them.  Is it incredibly well researched.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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This book was really good. I thought it was the best of all the books written about the ripper murders. It was not at all happy or hopeful. Even though most of the women were not prostitutes they still led hard lives. It was just good to actually here about them. The real them not just the ripper victims. As they are usually know as. It's very sad that it has taken this many years for someone to care enough to actually tell these woman's story. It needed to be told long ago. These 5 women were written off immediately if not before they were murdered. This is an important read for women and history. We have a long way to go still ladies in a lot of things and this book proves it.
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We all know the story ... Jack the Ripper murdered five prostitutes on the streets of Whitechapel in 1888.  

But that is not the real story.  

The real story is that of five women who live and die under the sad circumstances of poverty and misogyny. The author not only tells the story of each of The Five, she also tells the historical circumstances that led each woman into her unfortunate reality  .... and to her untimely death.  

A truly fantastic read!
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Another minutely detailed book.  This was an indepth examination of the lives of the women Jack the Ripper is thought to have killed, from their birth until the death at the hands of a ruthless killer.  Even if they had lived to a ripe old age, of probably 45 before dying of natural causes, no one could imagine that their lives were easy at any time.  Born into poverty for the most part with little hope of pulling oneself out of it, women of the poorer classes in Victorian England had a hard lot.  However, this book does a great deal to dissuade the common belief that all of Jack's victims were prostitutes.  Homeless? Yes, for the most part.  Drinkers? Again, yes.  But only one was known to be a prostitute at the time of her death.  The others were just trying to get through the day.  

I also found fascinating the detailed account of their daily lives and loves - the morals of the upper class were certainly different than of the poorer class where marriages were dismissed and new loves taken up with amazing regularity.
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I cannot even begin to explain how much I loved this book or how important this book really is.

I have always had a keen interest in Jack the Ripper and read everything I could lay my hands on. Jack has been researched, theorized, and written about more times than I can count but there has been barely a sentence put together about the women at the core of Ripperology... until now.

This book is an attempt to set the record straight regarding the women at the center of this horrible period in time. It has always been assumed that they were prostitutes and though some may have been, they were also daughters, mothers, sisters, and wives/partners. They had lives and dreams before they ended up in the East End. Society has a nasty way of blaming the victim and the stories about these women are no different.

Hallie Rubenhold delves into the history of the women whose lives were stolen from them. What strikes at the heart of all of the tales is the common theme of women starting off the race at the same time but each facing their own hurdles and bouts of bad luck that eventually led them to the East End and ultimately face to face with Jack.

The conclusion at the end of the book is poignant and very relevant for society today and imparts the important message that we should have learned a lesson from these horrific murders and the tragic women behind them.

"Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it."

We didn't learn to respect and protect women then and we do not respect or protect women now.

Anyone who cares about violence towards women today needs to read this book. This is a book I will read again so am planning to buy a physical copy to add to my collection.
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*received for free from netgalley for honest review* This was a really great book! Ive learned a lot about Jack the ripper and never knew much about The Five, this is such a great book and its sad and annoying ive never seen or heard of anyone putting this amount of effort into finding out about the women themselves. would love to own a physical copy.
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Rubenhold's meticulous research and inviting writing style bring new life to the victims of Jack the Ripper, paying their lives and the world in which they lived and moved just as much attention as is usually paid to the killer.
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I regret waiting so long to read this book. It was entirely the best book I read in 2019. Hallie Rubenhold made history alive. I've been recommending to everyone who would listen.
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I found this to be a powerful read.

A fascinating glimpse into the lives of the five Ripper victims. Rubenhold brings their lives and the society in which they lived magnificently to life.

For me, her writing and ability. to breath life into historical character is on a par with the writers of the calibre of Erik Larson and Ben MacIntyre.
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I think it is great that these five women are given a voice and the story they deserve. I went into this expecting it to be more of a true crime read. It was interesting, but didn't grab my attention all the way through.
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'In order to gawp at and examine this miracle of malevolence we have figuratively stepped over the bodies of those he murdered, and is some cases, stopped to kick them as we walked past'.

Firstly, thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Netgalley for an Advance Copy of this incredible book, the Five.  

This book focuses on the lives of the five canonical victims of Jack the Ripper and what led them to Whitechapel where they met their terrible fates.  It turns on its head the preconception that all Jack the Ripper's victims were prostitutes who he (or she) preyed upon because of their profession.  

Each chapter is dedicated to each victim's life, telling their stories as daughters first and eventually sisters, partners, mothers and friends.  It tells of their struggles to fit into society while making a living - it provides context as well - depicting an overpopulated city where work was scarce and slums are overflowing.  

The author tells us of the victim's hopes and aspirations, their successes, loves and their vices.  Refreshingly, there is no victim blaming as we come to understand these women as people.

I have to object just a little to part of the author's conclusion where she seems to accuse Ripper enthusiasts of passively endorsing the notion that the five victims were bad women and that the killings defined them.  

However I do agree that the victims have been lost in the discussion about who the Ripper was and the violence of the crimes.  I have always been aware that Jack the Ripper was a murderer of innocent people (no matter their walk of life) and the fact that he was never caught is a great tragedy. 

There has been a lack of focus on the victims of the crime and their lives.  There is rather a lot of emphasis on the method of their killing and the state of the bodies, but this book helps us understand who they were.

Polly, Annie, Elisabeth, Kate and Mary Jane deserve to be remembered.  Understanding their lives in the context of their time helps us to see what it was like for women of that time and encourages empathy for all victims of violent crime.
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A fascinating read, which unmasks the facts about the infamous Jack the Ripper and tragic end to the women who crossed their path. Recommended to those who enjoy history, true crime, or women and social history.
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I was asked by the CBC about my favourite memoir/biography for their Best of 2019 package, and chose THE FIVE.
These women were classified by history in a very reductive, dismissive way. The more I read this reclaiming of their unexplored, mistaken and forgotten stories the richer it got. I found the book's inventory of their pockets and possessions especially poignant.
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Love this take on the Jack the Ripper story.  It was nice change to see the point of view of the ladies.  I hope that everyone takes time to read this fantastic book.
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At first glance, this is an interesting new approach to examining the Jack the Ripper story focusing on the often overlooked victims. The author's deep research presents interesting portraits of the women. However, the book jumps to conclusions that are not supported by the research, for example the assertion that the victims were not prostitutes and were sleeping rough when they were murdered. Nevertheless, it's an interesting addition to the Ripper bookshelf.
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The common historical narrative we have regarding Jack the Ripper is that he was a prolific serial killer who (although we have a few theories) has not been identified. What we know about him is that his victims were prostitutes or women of "ill-repute" who worked and lived in the White Chapel area of London. Hallie Rubenhold instead places the five Jack the Ripper victims at the front of the narrative. 

What is brilliant about this book is that it made me question my world view on how I have ignored the fact that these women were living, breathing people who lived life and were loved and cherished. What we are given by Rubenhold is a deeper look into who these women were and giving us more than just footnotes at the margin of history.
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Hallie Rubenhold's The Five is an extraordinary work of social history.   It's partly a biography of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly, the "Canonical Five" victims of Jack the Ripper's spree murders in the autumn of 1888.  But Rubenhold writes of their lives, not their deaths, and while she doesn't gloss over their individual struggles she manages to give them back the dignity and humanity that their murderer and the subsequent press furor stripped from them.  The book also provides well-researched insight into the lives of working class and impoverished women in Victorian London, the obstacles they faced and the few escape routes available to them.  

Rubenhold's book is not about Jack the Ripper: who he was, or what he did to his victims.  In fact, Hallie Rubenhold avoids most of the grisly details of the murders and crime scenes entirely, instead describing the reactions of the victims' next of kin and their funeral arrangements.  

I don't think I've ever read another book quite like this one; I found it very moving.
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A thorough, gripping, and poignant look into the lives of the women murdered by Jack the Ripper. Hallie Rubenhold's in-depth look into the lives of these victims and what life circumstances lead them to be in Whitechapel on those infamous nights helps to rewrite the long-standing narrative that these women were all prostitutes.
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This book was fantastically researched and written. I have always been fascinated by the Jack the Ripper case. Even with all I have read about the subject, this book taught me a lot of different information. I learned so much about the women whose lives were cut short by Jack.
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