The Five by Hallie Rubenhold is a non-fiction book about the women who were murdered by Jack the Ripper. Instead of focusing on the murderer, however, we focus on the women. Their lives. Their histories. And how they ended up in the slums of London.
Hallie Rubenhold is a historian, so this is very well researched, with endless references at the end of the book (which I love!) and I can’t even imagine just how many hours went into researching this book.
Mary Ann Nichols. Annie Chapman. Elizabeth Stride. Catherine Eddowes. Mary Jane Kelly.
These are the women who came from middle class comfort, from the slums, from Sweden, with families that loved them, or being totally alone in the world.
I loved this book. So so much. We really delve deep into these women’s lives and the lives of their families. We learn exactly how all of them ended up living in their destitute situations and how they were making their living.
These women are often all portrayed as prostitutes and sex workers. Of course there is nothing at all wrong with this, but in Rubenhold’s research she could only find evidence that one of the women worked in this profession. It seems as though the Victorian’s couldn’t imagine a women living in the slums and not being “morally reprehensible” and so they decided that they all must be prostitutes.
Whilst in the modern day we know (or at least I hope you do) that there is nothing wrong with being a sex worker, it’s simply factually incorrect to state that this was these five women’s linking factor. That isn’t why they were murdered. They were women who unfortunately were deemed as easy targets. They weren’t able to find a bed for the night. They were homeless on the streets.
As you can see, I’m pretty passionate about this after having read this book. And I read this months ago! I really do recommend that you pick this up. It reads very well so should be perfectly accessible to those who aren’t keen on non-fiction books usually and is utterly fascinating to just learn about the day to day life of various women in this time period.
CAWPILE isn’t the best measure for non-fiction books (or at least it wasn’t in 2021, G has updated it for 2022) so I just wrote in the scores to give this book a 5 star rating! But I did make a note to give “enjoyment” a 10/10 score.
This is a fantastic read and in my opinion totally worth the hype that it suddenly got all over bookstagram. I hope you do pick this up and I hope you enjoy it!