Book Review: The Five

THE FIVE | Hallie Rubenhold
02.01.2019 | Black Swan
Rating: 4/5 stars


Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Mary Jane are all famous for the same thing. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden, and Wales. They experienced a variety of careers, from writing ballads to running coffee houses to living on country estates. They never met, but they share one thing in common. In 1888 they were all murdered. Their murderer was never identified, but his name has become far more famous than any of these five women. Chances are you’ve heard of their killer, but not the victims. The time has come to meet them.

THE FIVE by Hallie Rubenhold is the first time I’ve learned the truth behind the lives of Jack the Ripper’s victims. Most simply know them as prostitutes, but their choice to take part in the sex industry was not what should have defined them. They were mothers, sisters, wives, and valuable members of society that deserved a better ending. They lived fascinating lives filled with heartbreak, joy, and a struggle to fit into a society that rejected them.


Rubenhold has produced an incredible amount of research within THE FIVE that while dense in historical context, is somehow written in a way that follows into an addictive narrative. I loved getting to know each of the five women and learning about the ebbs and flows of their lives. The Victorian time period has always been one that fascinates me and mixed with murder and crime, this book is a recipe for non-fiction enjoyment.

The best part of this book is that Jack the Ripper is practically nonexistent within this text. This is not the story of a murderer. This is the story of victims who have long been shoved into the shadows and deserve recognition.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository

Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.

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