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The Five

The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper
Narrated by: Louise Brealey
Length: 10 hrs and 20 mins
4.7 out of 5 stars (1,927 ratings)

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Summary

Five devastating human stories and a dark and moving portrait of Victorian London - the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper.  

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffeehouses and lived on country estates; they breathed ink dust from printing presses and escaped people traffickers.  

What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888. The person responsible was never identified, but the character created by the press to fill that gap has become far more famous than any of these five women.  

For more than a century, newspapers have been keen to tell us that ‘the Ripper’ preyed on prostitutes. Not only is this untrue, as historian Hallie Rubenhold has discovered, it has prevented the real stories of these fascinating women from being told. Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, revealing a world not just of Dickens and Queen Victoria but of poverty, homelessness and rampant misogyny. They died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time - but their greatest misfortune was to be born a woman.

©2019 Hallie Rubenhold (P)2019 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

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An Insight in to the lives of the poorest women

I downloaded this book with a low expectation, having seen the reviews of some who had been very critical. However from the first moment, I was mesmerised in to a world I knew little about. A world of utter desperation, and hopelessness. A world familiar to the poorest in Victorian society. The research here is simply astonishing, and the way in which lives have been revived and the tragedy of their tales is breath-taking. Yes there is speculation, and hypotheticals, but these are based on evidence and comparators. In the course of the book I stopped seeing these canonical five as victims, and began seeing them as women. Women who had been abused, degraded and disposed, both by the Victorians and by contemporary writers ever since. I do doubt these women were prostitutes, but why should that matter - no one should have there life cut short regardless of where one works. But we continue to abuse these women to this day, in how we think of them, how our language describes them, and who is remembered. The narration is beautiful, the writing is strong, the story is compelling, but most of all my perspective was changed.

45 people found this helpful

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An unexpected gem of a book

I listen to a lot of audio books and this is certainly one of the best. A great deal of detective work has gone into collecting a wealth of information about the five victims of Jack the Ripper. History has judged these women unjustly labeling them as prostitutes and thus less worthy of sympathy. This book tells a different story and at the same time reveals the awfulness of life for the poor in Victorian society, particularly for women who had little protection if left without a male partner. The life stories of the five women are extraordinary and far more interesting than the lurid accounts of their murders.

8 people found this helpful

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Fantastic Book

This is such a fantastic book, the story being told is one that everyone needs to know. It is written in such a way that you can imagine living and breathing in Victorian London on every page. I will be highly recommending

24 people found this helpful

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Brilliant

Absolutely loved this. The lives of the women are so incredibly interesting, and significantly more so than anything I have read about their killer. Would highly recommend!!

24 people found this helpful

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Provocative and thoroughly absorbing

Famous for nothing more than being victims of Jack the Ripper, the reputations of five women have for years been tarnished by claims that they were simply prostitutes, sex workers who led selfish, pointless lives. But in truth, their stories have never been told. Now, Hallie Rubenhold uncovers the real lives of Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane and reveals how they came from a variety of backgrounds and geographical locations, including Fleet Street, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote songs, owned coffee houses, lived on country estates and escaped the perils and demands of people-traffickers. They were mothers, sisters, daughters and wives whose only crimes were to fall prey to poverty and desperation. Ever since the name of Jack the Ripper was first coined, that infamous being has reigned supreme in countless books, movies, documentaries and even tours of the murder sites. Concentrating on the grisly murders, everyone wants to know about the possible motives, the failings of the police investigation and the ever-growing list of possible suspects. It seems ridiculous that, until now, few historians have gone to the trouble of exploring the lives of the five women who made the Ripper famous. Hallie Rubenhold has a gift for meticulous research and in this fascinating account, she brings to life the real women whose lives ended between August and November 1888. The author’s circumspect approach brings the women and the era alive and highlights that it was not prostitution but poverty, alcohol and tragedy that led them to their sudden and unwarranted deaths. A provocative and thoroughly absorbing book.

22 people found this helpful

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Superb

Can’t recommend this highly enough. The factual telling of the stories of these women’s lives and their humanity with such respect, treating them with the dignity they always deserved but, until now, had been denied. A really moving, layered, powerful book. ‬

14 people found this helpful

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Long overdue

An incredible and long overdue telling of these women we only know as victims. At times I wanted to walk away from this book, so tragic are the stories. I’m so glad I didn’t.

8 people found this helpful

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Reclaiming the narrative

Jack the Ripper's victims are often dismissed as 'just prostitutes' as though the killer had done society a favour by disposing of them. But the first four victims, were not prostitutes at all, just destitute, homeless women with sad life stories, who were murdered while they were sleeping rough. The fifth woman had worked as a prostitute but does that mean she deserved what she got? The mystery and mythology surrounding Jack the Ripper has made him into an increasingly heroic figure, while reducing the women he murdered into disposable objects of shame. In 'The Five', Hallie Rubenhold tells their stories in an attempt to reclaim the narrative. This is a devastating read - firstly for the incredibly difficult lives these women led in Victorian London, where poverty was considered a moral failing, but even more so for the victim-blaming narrative perpetuated by the newspapers and still prevalent today in the media, in courtrooms and government, that suggests that sexual violence against a woman is somehow invited by the way she dresses, the places she goes, or how much she's had to drink. An important book.

3 people found this helpful

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Absolutely Excellent

A brilliant book, excellently narrated. A compelling and utterly moreish telling of the lives of five very different but equally tragic women whilst giving to credence to the evil that cut their stories short. I could not stop listening and highly recommend, it is not only a gripping insight to Victorian life but also feminist history.

3 people found this helpful

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  • CG
  • 17-04-19

Heartbreaking.

A necessary story, beautifully written and performed. For anyone with even a shred of empathy, "The Five" drops us into a world of gut-twisting poverty and shuddering injustice, where women are both heroines and victims. It's a moving story of fragile lives, always a couple of misfortunes away from catastrophe. Well worth the read.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 18-05-19

The story you think you know, but don't.

Turn history on its head. The women each have unique histories and what I thought I knew about them was mostly false. Amazing research has gone into this book. The stories are brilliantly written and the narrator is compelling.

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  • Debrakluit
  • 24-04-19

Excellent and Emotional

Excellent research work of these five women and an emotional review of a woman's life in the 19th century