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The Five

by Hallie Rubenhold

History Sharing Diverse Voices The Real World

LoveReading View on The Five

Readers less interested in speculating about who Jack the Ripper was in favour of learning more about the women murdered in London’s East End have had little reason to clear shelf space – until now.

Finally, a decade on from Neal Shelden’s book, which skims the surface of victims’ stories, Hallie Rubenhold offers a deep-dive into their lives. Divided chronologically in terms of their deaths in 1888, parts covering ‘Polly’, ‘Annie’, ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘Kate’ contain four chapters each; the fifth, ‘Mary Jane’, contains two and is relatively weak. Illustrations are uninspired.  

Notwithstanding the lack of archival material leading Rubenhold to interchange between telling specific stories of the “canonical” five and a general social history of the Victorian period, meticulous research undergirds captivating portraits akin to those featured in her histories of Georgian women. 

Shelden is the only Ripperologist widely cited by a historian who arguably pays insufficient acknowledgement to researchers who have revealed much of the known information on these vulnerable women. This is not to say they have nothing to learn, however, unless they know of Polly’s husband’s infidelity, Annie’s treatment in a sanatorium for alcoholism or are versed in Liz’s upbringing in Sweden. 

Rubenhold’s thesis that three of the five slept – not solicited – on the streets is as intriguing as her tendency to fill gaps in the source material with speculation is irksome, yet no serious Ripperologist can ignore The Five. More significantly, the book’s indictment of past and present misogyny will help ensure such discrimination has no future.

Lee Ruddin


The Five Synopsis

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. Five devastating human stories and a dark and moving portrait of Victorian London - the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper. 

The Five Press Reviews

FIVE STARS: At last, the Ripper's victims get a voice... An eloquent, stirring challenge to reject the prevailing Ripper myth. -- Gwen Smith - Mail on Sunday

How fitting that in the year when we celebrate the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage, dignity is finally returned to these unfortunate women. - Professor Dame Sue Black, author of ALL THAT REMAINS

A Ripper narrative that gives voice to the women he silenced; I've been waiting for this book for years. Beautifully written and with the grip of a thriller, it will open your eyes and break your heart. - Erin Kelly, author of HE SAID/SHE SAID

What a brilliant and necessary book - Jo Baker, author of LONGBOURN

Devastatingly good. The Five will leave you in tears of pity and of rage. - LUCY WORSLEY

Forests have been felled in the interests of unmasking the murderer, but until now no one has bothered to discover the identity of his victims. The Five is thus an angry and important work of historical detection, calling time on the misogyny that has fed the Ripper myth. . . This is a powerful and a shaming book, but most shameful of all is that it took 130 years to write. -- Frances Wilson - Guardian

By collating these five deeply affecting biographies ... Rubenhold has given these women the immortality that their murderer does not deserve. - Daily Mail

Stupendous. The sort of work that keeps history vital. - IMOGEN HERMES GOWAR, author of THE MERMAID AND MRS HANCOCK

Fascinating, compelling, moving, The Five makes a fierce, passionate argument about the ethics of how we engage with murder. A brilliant,properly thoughtful, responsible piece of political writing. - BRIDGET COLLINS, author of THE BINDING

`Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly deserve to be thought of as more than eviscerated bodies on an East London street. This haunting book does something to redress that balance. - Sunday Times

A highly readable work of rigorous scholarship that plunges the reader into the claustrophobic world of late 19th-century London... The story of these five women - Mary Ann Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly - is not one of death, but one of life. -- Rebecca Rideal - NewStatesman

A Sunday Times must-read. - Sunday Times

Fascinating and hugely important book acts as a timely reminder of what happens when society ceases to care for its most vulnerable residents. - Herald Scotland

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9780857524485
Publication date: 28/02/2019
Publisher: Doubleday an imprint of Transworld Publishers Ltd
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9780857524485
Publication date: 28th February 2019
Author: Hallie Rubenhold
Publisher: Doubleday an imprint of Transworld Publishers Ltd
Format: Hardback
Genres: History, Diverse Voices, The Real World,

About Hallie Rubenhold

Hallie Rubenhold is an historian and broadcaster and an authority on British 18th-century social history. She has written two works of non-fiction to critical acclaim: The Covent Garden Ladies and Lady Worsley's Whim: An Eighteenth-century Tale of Sex, Scandal and Divorce. Hallie lives in London with her husband.   Author photo © Johnny Ring

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