The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really love the concept of this book, of giving life to the women who are overlooked in favour of their killer, and it didn’t let me (or them) down. A really fascinating and moving account of the lives of these five women, showing the ups and downs, and just how quickly and easily they slipped down from safe, respectable lives. All that manual work, childbearing, losing children and parents and lovers to various deaths. It would break anybody.

It is a well researched and beautifully told account of what a society is like with no safety net (and we are heading rapidly back there folks so this is our future as well as our past) but the women are also fleshed out to be the frustrating, mysterious, contradictory people that they were, not the simply depicted prostitutes and fallen women the press of the time called them.

I have only bumped this down from five to four stars for one reason. The author’s irritating habit of saying “she MUST have felt…” and “it MUST have been a factor…”. These are real people and this is real history so I don’t like the use of ‘must’. You can say “she may have felt….” and “it may have meant she….” instead. I know it sounds like a really petty reason but once I noticed it it really bothered me!

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