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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 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

What listeners say about The Five

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Bringing justice to The Five

I was absolutely hooked from the moment I started this book and it was fascinating to hear so much detailed research into the lives of the five canonical victims of JTR. As well as giving a well documented snapshot into late Victorian London and the lives of the women who inhabited its working class, it challenges the reader to re-evaluate what you had assumed from the stories, Wikipedia or other media that labelled Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary Jane as “prostitutes” and gives them a chance to reclaim the dignity that was so brutally taken from them 130yrs ago. The reader is well paced and lively. She is engaging and well-suited to the subject-matter of the book. Highly recommended!

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Lag

Wonderful writing. Atmospheric and to an element, nostalgic. Rating 3 stars for performance as after 6 hours the narrative skipped the first words from sentences. Still able to listen but spoiled the flow

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Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant!

Superb writing...deeply moving....should be a set book in every school. The narrator has the perfect tone of voice for this work.

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Love this book

Have listened to this book twice and enjoyed it immensely both times. Thoroughly researched and highly detailed, delivered in a captivating narrative.

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Sad but fascinating insight

Really enjoyed hearing about the detailed lives of women from this era. Great for the family historian who wonders about her female ancestors from this era. I like that it’s not the posh Pride & Prejudice types but the poorer working classes. Gives great insight into how difficult a woman’s life was back then and how quickly their circumstances could shift.

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Utterly fascinating and a long overdue recognition.

Everybody knows about Jack the Ripper but I can’t imagine there are many who know anything about the lives of the women he murdered. This book by Rubenhold is an overdue work revealing the nightmarish lives women lived in the 1800s and how simply by being born female they would struggle until they died. The book also reveals that the women Jack the Ripper killed were not prostitutes but women simply trying to survive in a time where survival could not have been more difficult. Readers are also reminded that the way society treated these victims as ‘less than’ because they were considered by the judiciary as sex workers is still going on today – that Women today are still judged by their behaviour and, if they are victims, those who have assaulted them can achieve a more favourable outcome because the woman is not as important. This book was beautifully narrated and I struggled to stop listening even late into the night. Above all it’s impossible not to be left feeling chastened by being part of a society that treats Jack the Ripper as a celebrity. This book strives to set this right by showing us that the women he killed did not deserve the lives that ravaged them and certainly didn’t deserve their lives to end so horrifically. Compelling and thought provoking. Excellent.

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Moving story of sad lives

This book really made me think about how popular culture numbs us to the reality of people's lives. It describes the situation these women lived in and the social context of their lives and deaths. A seriously good book.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 18-05-2019

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
  • 24-04-2019

Excellent and Emotional

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

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  • Jock
  • 19-04-2019

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.

46 people found this helpful

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  • Kirstine
  • 26-07-2019

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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  • Mr Scott Doutre
  • 10-03-2019

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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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-03-2019

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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  • Squeaky Joe
  • 08-05-2019

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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  • Katharine Richards
  • 28-02-2019

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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  • Georgina Spencer
  • 17-04-2019

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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  • Emily Butlin
  • 27-06-2020

Meh

I was really excited for this book as I'd wanted to read it for ages. I'm sad to say the narration just didn't do it for me. I found it very difficult to engage with even when I slowed it down. I found it runs away with you and you really have to concentrate to get what is being said. Maybe I'll give it another go as I really wanted to read it.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Rebecca R
  • 13-03-2020

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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  • Grace Benham
  • 07-03-2020

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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