Book Review: “The Five: The Untold Lives Of The Women Killed By Jack The Ripper” by Hallie Rubenhold

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Hello!

Last month I was able to four books at one time, and as you might’ve seen in my review for Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, I mentioned that I really wanted to get into that spooky vibe that October always seems to bring and so this was a great addition to the lineup, although I did feel sad as I was finishing it but I will explain in detail later on the post.

For now, let’s move on to the blurb of the story.


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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.

taken from Goodreads.

There were a number of things I actually liked about this book. The first has to be the introduction: the author gave you an idea of how the time of the Jack The Ripper killings, a year after the Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebrations in 1887. You have a great reference of showcasing the glamor and luxuries of the royals but the darkside of her people, the lives of the victims are less infamous as they were all assumed to be prostitutes, but here they are up front and you really get to see how much a person, whether they are male or female, had to live in that era.

My second is the question that I seemed to have while reading the beginning of each of the women’s lives, which was, “how did it go wrong?” and for most, they were addicted to alcohol. Apparently it was very easy to get a drink, whereas having the resources to find birth control was not, and at this point the two were mixed and unfortunately had sad consequences, like experiencing the heartbreak of multiple stillbirths and children born with disabilities. The main reason why many lives were consumed to the alcohol were because of the many tragedies that came into their homes, whether it was their parents, siblings, or their own children; a way of coping with the guilt or pain was to drink it all away.

However, the drawback of a person, especially a woman with a family of her own, depending on the drink to cope with life’s struggles made her into a “fallen woman” if she would rather rely on the thirst or be at the heart of her family, good wife to her husband. Unfortunately, if the husband and father was also using the same coping mechanism, he wouldn’t be judged the same way as his wife. He could be open to his vices, if he could still hold down a job and pay his rent to the landlords. However, if the drink became too much, it was most likely the wives would be cast out of the home rather than the husband. The double standards of the Victorian era reigned heavily over the lives in London.

I want to say, I have looked up the women before, but have never once focused my attention on who they were; the notion that all five were considered “whores” really set me off about them and when I decided to give this a go, I was more focused on the nature of ‘The Ripper’ even as I talked it over with my mom, but once I finished I quickly realized everything that happened was real. Since there are five victims, I ended up having favorites, which I felt horrible at the time (and honestly still do!) because I saw the same things happening over and over again but with a different name and social class. My three favorites were: Annie, Elisabeth and Catherine or Katie as she was called in the book.

If you haven’t read this book, you should definitely put it on your list, and despite the fact that Halloween is now over with, it doesn’t mean you need to wait because autumn in general puts me in the mood for these kinds of books anyway. Oh, and you can also read it for the rest of ‘Nonfiction November’ theme too!

Have you read this book before? If you have, what were your thoughts about it?

snowflake

For The Love Of Documentaries!

It seems I’ve started a trend this year. .

Last year I was obsessed with trying to put a dent into my movie list. I was fairly proud of myself for doing that because I managed to cross off quite a bit. This year it’s a different story, the only films I’ve watched that I’ve added onto my 2016 and the first half of 2017 movie post. I’ve seen Morgan, Finding Dory, Beauty and The Beast, and Split. I know, the fact that even wanted to watch shocked a lot of my family!

Since February of this year, I’ve been more into little specials on PBS. If I want something to watch about history, this has been my #1 source until I fell back in love with using YouTube to chase that need for documentaries. I don’t have Netflix so I don’t have a great array of specials like I want like most of the general population, but I think this works just as good though! I wanted to do this post to share what all I’ve seen since the beginning of the year, in case anybody wanted to change their chances and watch them as well!

In January, PBS started on The Six Wives Of Henry VIII which was a three part series, they also premiered the first season of Victoria on the same weekend, I pretty much looked forward to Sundays for a good three weeks. I think Victoria ended in early March, but don’t count me on that!

Around February, I found Secrets Of The Dead but I only found like four episodes that I was able to watch off and on for about five months. The first episode was about the origins of both Frankenstein and Vampyre which you can learn more about in my Tune Tuesday post I did about Switzerland. The others were about Vincent Van Gogh’s missing ear, Nero’s Sunken City and Leonardo de Vinci (which I didn’t necessarily enjoy!). I found The Wonder Of Britain hosted by Julia Bradbury which was on at like four in the morning so I had to record it, however there were a few times that I could have watched it live since I was usually awake around that time! The third one was the Tales From The Bedchamber who was hosted by Lucy Worsley.

By the time April came around, I was using YouTube to watch my documentaries more frequently and as I started looking back at the ones I watched, I quickly realized I probably should have written down the ones I watched because trying to figure out each one made my brain hurt!

When my nana was going through her bad health spells, I used a series to keep me occupied throughout the rough times and I started watching The House Of Windsor which tells you of the origins of the current British monarch, like why King George V decided to change their family name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha which was started at the time of Queen Victoria when she married Prince Albert. It also takes you behind the secrets stored in the archives of Windsor Castle. For explain, the real reason behind why the Russian Imperial family wasn’t allowed to take refuge at Buckingham Palace. I thought it was pretty neat!

I do remember starting the series King and Queens of England I only got to Normans, I watched the Decadence and Elegance: The Age Of Regency  which was about when the Prince Regent George IV – he’s regarded one of the most lavishes royals! It was also hosted by Lucy Worsley. I saw an hour long special called Inside The Court of King Henry VIII and I still feel like that should have been longer than an hour! The last one I vaguely remember watching before the start of June was Prince John: The Windsor Tragic Story. Prince John was the youngest of King George V and Queen Mary, he was different from the rest of his siblings, or in general a royal prince. He was diagnosed with epilepsy and was put away from the public and the rest of his family.

I started with Elizabeth I which talks about the life of Queen Elizabeth I, including the feud between her and her half sister Queen Mary I. How she was accused for helping the Protestant uprising against the Catholics, but she and the leader both denied her involvement. It also talked about she might’ve been sexually assaulted by her half brother’s adviser Thomas Seymour when she was living with her father’s sixth wife Catherine Parr after she married Thomas and became pregnant with his child. I had never heard of these accusations before so that was a new one for me! I have yet to finish the series!

There was a special on PBS about Mary Ann Cotton called Dark Angel, who was England’s first serial killer. It was said that she killed different members of her family, including her children with arsenic to collect their life insurances. It starred Joanne Fogett as Mary Ann Cotton, and I was in shocked but in awe of this woman. It was also said in total she killed over 20 people!

Recently there have been three separate specials I’ve seen on both TV and YouTube. The first was My Mother And Other Strangers on PBS, it has had a slow beginning but it has been very interesting too! It was set in Ireland around the time of World War II. You have these American soldiers living on base in this small town called Moybeg and the narrator is the older Francis, whereas he talks about the life of his family. He is like around seven years old in the actual series. It’s a nice story and kind of hoping for a second season but I don’t think I should hold my breath as like both Victoria and Dark Angel they premiered on BBC or ITV first before making its way to the US.

I watched a special about nuns, and that is what happens when you watch both Sister Act films in one week alone. It was called Young Nuns and it gave you a sense of these modern women becoming nuns for different reasons. I still haven’t finished it, but so far so good! I found one about Princess Alice of Bradenburg, called The Queen’s Mother In Law as she is the mother of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. This was another sad one to watch, but it was nevertheless good though. The third was Richard III: The King Laid To Rest I have been very interested in King Richard III mostly of his disability and living with scoliosis around the the 15th Century. I had watched section of Mysteries At The Museum that talked about finding him in a parking lot in 2012. This was about finally putting his remains in the ground in a well-established church. I still think he should have been buried in a Catholic church since that was what he was at the time, but they didn’t. I thought it was a beautiful service and we may never see that ever again unless they finally find the Princes In The Tower or Henry I.

I’m not just into specials about Ireland and England, I also enjoy other parts of the world as well! PBS recently had a series called The Story Of China that I thoroughly enjoyed! It was hosted by Michael Wood and as I watched it while these people were talking to him in their native languages (and there are a lot!) but he never seemed to have a translator for himself, so in ways you kind of got the feeling he knew what they were saying but I can’t say for certain. They had like seven episodes in all, even through two were combined so there were two hours long. It was glorious! I’ve always been interested in China and it’s traditions so I figured I would really like it and I was right!

I’ve watched a few more in the last four weeks, but I’ve decided to not include them on this post.

Are you interested in documentaries or little specials or series of specific places around the world? What have you watched recently?

snowflake

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