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Publisher Description

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 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. 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.

April 9
HMH Books
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Customer Reviews

Josey86 ,

Premise is GREAT, Execution is HORRIBLE

I greatly respect and admire the people who recommended this book, but I just cannot bring myself to return to it. The narrative is slow and gives way too much detail on things that don’t matter. Her word choice in places does not match the academic tone of the rest of her writing. She uses poor logic in places (Jack the Ripper didn’t have sex with any of his victims so this is proof that they weren’t prostitutes).

I got through the first victim and just couldn’t bring myself to read another word. Maybe at a different time I will be able to return to this book, but that time is neither now nor in the near future. I love the premise of this book, but I can’t stand the execution. I feel about half of what is there for each victim is plenty to tell their story. I just want to beg Rubenhold to get on with it.

The one point she made that stands out as worth a proper discussion (which it does not, unfortunately, get in this book) is that it seems all of the victims were killed while sleeping. That one claim sent me back to the photos of the women, and that seems absolutely obvious once pointed out. I don’t know why I never noticed that before. I really wish she had expanded on that idea much further than she did.

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