Rating: 4 / 5
THE FIVE: THE UNTOLD LIVES OF THE WOMEN KILLED BY JACK THE RIPPER by Hallie Rubenhold tells the story of five women who were the victims of Jack the Ripper in Victorian London: Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Mary-Jane. These women are barely remembered as the prostitutes killed by the infamous serial killer, barely a footnote in the perpetrator’s story. The reality is that there isn’t proof that they were all prostitutes. The author spends time digging into the lives of each woman, where they came from and what their daily lives in 1888 entailed.
I really appreciated what Hallie Rubenhold set out to do with this book, telling the story of these women mostly forgotten by time and mislabeled as sex workers as if that somehow mitigated the fact that they were victims. As someone who reads dark fiction and enjoys a good fictional serial killer story, it can be easy to forget the real life victims. We’ve all seen the stories on the news where victims can take a back seat to discussions of those who did the crime.
I haven’t done a lot of reading in this Victorian London setting and especially not in the impoverished reality that the author portrays as the backdrop for these women’s lives. It was a sad read knowing that the women we’re introduced to have such a horrific end, but I really enjoyed the way their stories are told! The lack of respect they were given as women, and as poor women even more so, is heartbreaking.
This was an a good True Crime take on the #NonfictionBookParty History Aficionado photo prompt from Jaymi @theocbookgirl!