Miscast in the media for nearly 130 years, the victims of Jack the Ripper receive more careful attention in this book that charts the social pitfalls and peril that characterized life for middle-class women in Victorian London.
Hallie Rubenhold’s hard-edged, heartbreaking biographies ... [resurrect] these women’s complicated lives through diligent research in public records, Rubenhold aims to restore them to history as full human beings. Equally important, she places them in context within the beleaguered Victorian working class, struggling to survive in the brutal society forged by the Industrial Revolution ... Rubenhold does not pretend her subjects were admirable characters, but she makes a compelling case that 'the cards were stacked against [them] from birth' ... Her tone is slightly overheated ... But she has a point about the legions of books that speculate endlessly about Jack the Ripper’s identity while displaying scant interest in the five human beings he viciously dispatched. Her riveting work, both compassionate group portrait and stinging social history, finally gives them their due.
Rubenhold resists rehashing the sensationalist details of the slayings and instead concentrates on these so-called 'canonical five' ... A social historian and a historical novelist, Rubenhold is a painstaking researcher and a lucid wordsmith. Without lionizing or sentimentalizing her subjects, she writes of these women with clarity and compassion, pointing out that much of what we think we know comes wrapped in the condescension of officials who were 'male, authoritarian, and middle-class' ... Rubenhold’s The Five eloquently makes the case that while we will likely never know the identity of Jack the Ripper himself, we can and should understand and respect the identities of the individuals whose lives he took.
...vividly written, carefully researched ... All the stories in the book are steeped in tragic detail ... This book is a poignant but absorbing exploration of the reality of working women’s lives in the late 19th century—and how perilously easy it was for married women with children to find themselves reduced to seeking shelter in the dank courts and alleyways around Spitalfields, where the Ripper operated. It is a book that brings a whole new meaning to the phrase 'Victorian values.'