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


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.

Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become far more famous than any of these five women.

Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, historian Hallie Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, and gives these women back their stories.


I join so many others when I say this book is one of the most brilliant non-fiction / ‘true crime’ books ever! After so many years, the five women murdered by Jack the Ripper -⁠

Polly Nichols⁠
Annie Chapman⁠
Elizabeth Stride⁠
Kate Eddows ⁠
Mary Jane Kelly⁠

– have been given a platform as women – mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, lovers – rather than the bodies of dead ‘prostitutes’.⁠

Since their deaths, these five women, whose lives were brutally taken away, have been tarred with the same brush – sinful, fallen women; prostitutes. Besides the fact that single or seperated poverty stricken women in the Victorian era were often labelled as such before ever succumbing to sex work, there is little to no evidence to suggest that three of these women were ever, at any point, in the trade of selling sex.⁠

So long have these victims been cast aside due to the stigma towards their supposed occupations, but finally their stories have been told, and in such a beautiful, tragic and in-depth way. There is no doubt that their stories are both sad and bleak, it’s certainly not easy to read about their misfortunes, but it’s important that they’re finally being given the recognition that they deserve, as victims. They were human beings whose posthumous reputations were dragged so publicly through the mud based on sloppy police work and archaic views on women’s rights.⁠

There is quite a lot of emphasis placed on the fact that these women were not in fact sex workers, though their deaths would remain just as tragic had they been. I don’t think Rubenhold meant any harm by pushing this narrative, but was simply trying to show these women’s truths and I think this is shown as that in the final chapter.⁠

I really liked this book and the message within its pages! Not for people looking to know more about “Jack the Ripper” but for everyone else.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Book Details:

Pages: 416
Edition Published:
2020, Black Swan
Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime
Goodreads Av. Rating: 4.17

4 Replies to “Book review: The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold”

  1. I have been hearing such incredible things about this book. It is so shocking to hear that these women weren’t prostitutes since that is the story that has been told for so long. That just makes me more interested in picking up this story. Such a great review. I can’t wait to get to this one.

    Liked by 1 person

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