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Publisher's 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 coffee houses, 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, but 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 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

What listeners say about The Five

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Finally...A Voice for the Voiceless

This book is a well-written and well-narrated story revealing the realities of the lives of the victims of Jack the Ripper. We all know the names of and, sometimes, sensationalize murderers like Jack the Ripper. We, in general, don't know the names of the people who were slaughtered. Finally, someone has brought to light and life, if you will, the everyday lives of the women who were cruelly ripped from the world by monsters. After listening to this book, I will make sure to, at least, learn the names of people who are victims of "celebrity" killers. Many thanks to the author of this book for placing these women in the forefront instead of glorifying a vicious killer. My way of thinking has been changed by this book. Please, if you are a true crime aficionado, give this book a listen and, maybe, your way of thinking about crime will be challenged and changed too.

12 people found this helpful

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Everyone needs to read/listen to this book

This is outstanding, and if it doesn't make you angry AF I don't know what to say. I had to break this up over time because I would get so livid that I stopped following the story.

These women have been erased in favor of their killer, we practically celebrate him, but I have never heard more than the names of these women before now. The sheer horror of life as a woman in Victorian times, and even more enraging, how many of those attitudes are still negatively affecting women today cannot be minimized. The unending pregnancies women were forced to endure is unbearable, but then you layer that with the fact that women were blamed for literally everything, and given almost no credit for what they did do it becomes overwhelming.

These women have been dismissed as prostitutes throughout the narrative surrounding the Ripper obsession, but this shows that they were not with one temporary exception. But worse than that is the attitude that they deserved what happened to them. Regardless of how these women were forced to live their lives, and the completely understandable alcoholism that resulted from what they lived through, they deserve to be recognized, not as The Ripper's victims, but as the women they were.

I highly recommend this book. Everyone should read or listen to this, it will open your eyes.

Audio: Fantastic, I would love to listen to more from this narrator.

20 people found this helpful

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Polly, Annie, Elisabeth, Catherine, Mary Jane

These are the victims. The murdered women who were individuals, wives, mothers, and unfortunate victims of poverty. All were destitute, some mentally ill, many alcoholic and ill from disease. Not all were prostitutes as deemed at the time. These women were hunted and murdered by a vile Victorian misogynist psychopath. Due to the media reporting, history has promoted and sensationalized the culprit rather than these victims until now.

The author, a social historian, has presented a wonderfully researched book on the lives of the canonical five. Each character‘s background is illuminated against the biases of the late Victorian era where women were mostly invisible. Further, the author highlights the Victorian way of life around Whitechapel and Spitalfield where dosshouses and workhouses are mixed with brothels, slums, and fancy dwellings. She even visits Elisabeth’s life in Gothenburg and Mary Jane’s mysterious visit to Paris. The lives of these broken women who were killed in late 1888 is truly heart breaking.

This is a remarkable book that should be read/listened by all who care for the victims rather than the perpetrator.

7 people found this helpful

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Women - Worth More Now, But Still Worth Less. Why??

If you are a woman and you don’t read this book, you are going to miss some valuable information that could be able to answer some puzzling injustices you will be confronted with in life, and people, politics, employment, families, religion, fashion, advertising, poverty, raising children, house work, sterio types, and all things that control a woman’s life, and still steer her toward needing a man in her life financially. Women are still expected to care for the children, and hold the burden of having safe childcare prior to getting to work every day. This must be consistent and uninterrupted and often causes jobs and income lost when it fails, due to illness of a child, or disability, or injury, or conflicts with care or education situations. Men mostly still leave this burden on the children’s mother. Even my great grandfather’s father left him when his wife drown, and he was raised by female relatives. No man was expected to work and care for children. I’m not surprised all the women eventually gave in to some sort of addiction when life served to be a series of tragic losses, blame, shame, and shattering poverty, and so much judgmental haranguing and brutal punishments! Why is it we become so interested in the killers, more so than the victims? I’m glad to read more and more books like this where women are being researched and we are hearing their stories told. I thought the narration just right. I wouldn’t have liked it exaggerated like a horror story! The calmness of this narrator allows you to step beside her and enter the scenes as if you are walking back through those stinking, filthy streets, as an observer by her side. And you can contemplate the sights, the sounds, the chill in the air. A greatly appreciated piece of historical non fiction!

6 people found this helpful

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Excellent example of the historian's craft.

Too often ripperology becomes an exercise in requoting earlier claims and takes. This book takes a fresh, and well researched take on the subject.
Add in a top notch narration and this is well worth listening to.

5 people found this helpful

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tale of the oppression of women in 1880

loved it .. tells the real life struggles of women in the 1880s .. men less and penniless ... parallels with homeless women of today.. crazy similar .. love the performance voice .. so relaxed and genuine

5 people found this helpful

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Well Researched and Fascinating

The Five mostly reads like non fiction with smatterings of more lyrical prose, but despite the interesting subject matter and the impressive amount of research the author did in piecing the lives of women together who would have faded into obscurity had they not been the victims of a serial killer, it took me a while to get into the book because of the narrator’s mostly dispassionate delivery. I did end up really enjoying the book and feel haunted by Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Kate, and Mary Jane’s stories, but felt that the narrator only did the author’s obvious passion for her subject justice in the conclusion at the end.

4 people found this helpful

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Great Listen!

I have been fascinated by Jack the Ripper since I first heard of him many years ago. Who was he? Why did he feel he could commit such horrible crimes? How did he get away with it? What is it that draws so many to his crimes? This book answers none of those really. For that I’m actually happy. In the midst of all my questions about him, I wanted to know more about these women. The prostitutes. As if that is all that mattered. As if it excused what was done to them. As if any of us are just one definable thing. Even as a young teen, I knew there was more to these women. The fact that for so many years that was all they were, murdered prostitutes, heavily influenced my belief that we should be remembering victims rather than the murderers. In my opinion, the author did just that. I am in awe of her research.
Each woman had a life beyond what they were, for centuries, remembered for. They had childhoods. They had family and friends. Life experiences that played a big part in what they became famous for. Life has never been gentle for women. It has made me laugh whenever I would hear woman called, “the weaker sex.” We bear children. We have overcome difficulties that are exhausting just to read of. We have been held back, valued less, yet trusted with the future, (historically who has had the responsibility of child raising and what is the future without children who grow into adults?). But we were the weaker ones. Okay. As I listened, and read, this book, of what a woman’s life was like back then, I admired these “fallen women,” who kept moving forward no matter what they had to do to survive the day.
I listened to this book on Audible. It was narrated by Louise Brealey, who did an awesome job. I also read the Kindle book. There were some slight changes in wording that made it difficult to read along as you listen. It was easy, though, to switch between listening and reading. I would recommend the book in either form. It was as fascinating as it was informative. True crime stories can be difficult to listen to. They can also be boring. This book was neither of those. I encourage you to read it and discuss it. It is an excellent book club choice.

2 people found this helpful

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Interesting New Angle on Old Story

Narrator did the best she could with what reads almost like a textbook. While it's an interesting angle it gets to be a bit long and there are lots of names and date that are hard to keep straight. This may have been easier to follow if there was a visual timeline / visual family trees included.

2 people found this helpful

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The Five

Although I felt I was reading a college thesis paper,, I still felt the information was interesting.

2 people found this helpful