#16. ‘The Five. The Untold Lives of The Women Killed by Jack The Ripper’ by Hallie Rubenhold

“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’

Jack The Ripper

To this day the identity of Jack The Ripper is unknown, yet we have documentaries made about him; we can book a tour in London and walk the street he walked when he killed all these women. It almost feels like we celebrate what he did as if we should keep the memory of this brutal killer alive. What do we know about his victims though? They are forgotten, as though they did not matter. ‘The five’ brings them and their stories back to life. Rubenhold wrote this book for Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary Jane. She gave them back their dignity.

Life In Poverty

Although ‘The five’ is non-fiction, to me it was like reading a novel. Rubenhold’s writing style took me to England’s Victorian era. Poverty, homelessness and sickness were on everyday reality. If you were a woman it was even more difficult; birth control methods were not something you knew much about in the 1800s which meant that women were breeding children year after year without having the ability to provide for them unless you had a husband but even then the odds of living the life where you do not have to worry about having food on a table were very slim.

Five Women

The author was very transparent when it comes to facts about these five women. She managed to re-create their stories with little evidence she gathered. At times when there were gaps in their lives, Rubenhold uses vocabulary such as ‘she might have’ to point out she is purely guessing of what could have happened to them. Jack The Ripper is known as the ‘prostitutes killer’ but the author managed to put a different light on those assumptions. In three of those cases, there is no evidence at all that they were prostitutes. At that time it was easier for journalists to put all his victims under one category: prostitutes, and even if they were, they did not deserve what happened to them. 

Erin Kelly said ‘With the grip of a thriller, it will open your eyes and break your heart’. It truly did and I recommend this book to everyone who enjoys history and especially the history that was based on false assumptions. 

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