Book review: The Five - The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

 Well hello to you my reader chums! It's been a while since I've sat down and written a book review. At the beginning of lockdown, I seem to delve back into my love of reading and it was my number one priority, however, as time moved on, life got busy and reading took a backstep, unfortunately.

But, a book I've just finished and really enjoyed in so many ways was The Five. It had a combination of history, a beautiful way of storytelling, and the raw honest element of these ladies' lives - and here are my overall thoughts on the book.

Book review: The Five - The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

Storyline

The whole idea behind the novel which I think is so important is to give the women back their stories and back a voice. Jack the Ripper is known as one of the most famous killers of all time but his victims are merely known as just that, especially in the headlines at that time. However, they weren't just victims, they were women, they were mothers, daughters, wives, workers and so much more.

The storyline is broken up into each woman and every stage in their life. It starts with a general background of who they are, where they're from, and then goes onto their whole lives essentially. The book takes you through the journey chronologically of what the women went through, the successes and the hardships, and how they, unfortunately, ended up in the wrong place. It gives a bit of humanity to the women's story and that really, they are just like us. 

I learnt about the places they were born, their relationships, the many kids they had, their loves, and what unfortunately went wrong for them to fall out of love with themselves. I also learnt about the history at that time and how the way of life was so much harder for women. They'd have to be married in order to fit into society and were simply just a homemaker or a mother, they couldn't be who they wanted. It was frowned upon for women to pursue their dreams, to do things for themselves, or even enjoy sex. It was a man world's back then and honestly, it makes me so grateful for a lot of the changes that have been made today.

The five women

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Mary Jane were the names of the five women. Say their names louder for the people at the back, as they were women and humans, and deserve to be remembered in that way. I've empathised with each of the women's tales and really wanted to give them a hug and tell them it's going to be okay. So many issues were involved in their lives such as the battle with addiction, the loss of their children, divorce, death, poverty, mental health, and many other things which are still prominent issues today. These issues often led them down a bad path as the support and help weren't available like what is now and these women really did suffer.

But the main issue is the fact that they were women and how women were deemed as a second class citizen. Before these women were even born, they were regarded as less important than their brothers or male counterparts. They weren't going to be given the same leg up in life like their brothers, and unfortunately, even though time and progress have been made, the level of inequality between the sexes still stands.

Overall thoughts 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it was such an insightful read in so many ways. It opened my eyes to the level of poverty in the 1800s and what life really was like then, even down to their way of living, the workplace, and everyday life. It taught me so much history about that century as a whole. It also opened my eyes to the lack of rights and say there was for women. Don't get me wrong, I'm fully aware that women have been treated badly for centries but this novel goes more in-depth to each point of how they were treated unfairly - and what went on.

I felt privileged to be able to learn more about these five women and their life stories, and everything which made them so unique, and the hardships they went through. I really empathised with their stories and wanted to know more. I think this book is so important and a must-read for everyone. It's got a huge feminist voice to it, showing the reader that a woman's life is incredibly important and who she is, isn't dependant on her marital status, or who she's associated with. The book is an eye-opener, insightful read, and generally an incredible history book.

Ending

The ending offers an interesting round up to the whole book and gives a conclusion chapter, titled 'just prostitutes.' This is one of my favourite parts of the book as it fully explains how in the 1800s, a women's sole purpose was to support men in their life choices, whether that was being a mother, a wife, or basically assisting them in any way. Women were supposed to be homemakers then, they lived for their husbands and weren't allowed their own life, their own drive - or they were shunned by society. There were a lot of double standards and the fact that Jack the Ripper is glorified for what he did rather than be shunned, highlights that point even more. This book gives the voices back to the women that suffered as it's the least they deserved and hopefully, it can aid in silencing the ripper and supporting women instead. Let's smash the patriarchy together!

I hope you enjoyed this review. Have you read this book?

Thank you for reading <3

16 comments

  1. I have not heard of this book, but it sounds quite interesting. Your overview is very good, as it gives an idea of the issues facing women and society at the time. We can learn so much from history.

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  2. I'm really interested in history and we studied Jack the Ripper a LOT in school but you're so right, the victims have always been seen as just that. I'd love to learn more about these women. Thanks for sharing this fab review x

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    1. Same here! I would highly recommend giving it a read xx

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  3. I've not heard of this book but the whole issue of how women, and in particular prostitutes, were regarded in Victorian times angers me hugely. I might have to look this one out - thank you for the recommendation.

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    1. Same here! It's such an important read, I hope you enjoy it x

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  4. Such a good review! I read the book earlier this year and adored it, I completely agree that it’s a must read and just hugely important for anyone to read. The Jack the Ripper murders have almost been glorified and this book works to put an end to that- these women were so much more than just victims or second class citizens and we should recognise that. A really fabulous review, makes me want to pick up my own copy for a reread!x

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    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment! I'm glad you enjoyed the book and agree with my points xx

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  5. This sounds like such a great book. I love history so this is right up my street. You've written such a great review, I definitely need to get a copy to read.

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    1. It really is! Thanks so much for your lovely words xx

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  6. I've started this and really need to finish it tbh!

    Love, Amie ❤
    The Curvaceous Vegan

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  7. This book sounds incredible. Definitely going to be adding it to my book pile :) thank you for sharing x

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  8. Sounds like an interesting book. Great review!

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