Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Social historian Rubenhold (The Covent Garden Ladies) more than justifies another book about the 1888 Jack the Ripper murders by focusing on the killer's five victims: Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elisabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. This unique approach not only restores humanity to the dead and counters glorification of the Ripper but also enables Rubenhold to offer some original insights into the crimes. In her careful parsing of the available accounts of the inquests from newspaper reports, she convincingly argues that three of the victims were not prostitutes, and thereby undermines numerous theories premised on the killer's targeting members of that profession. Rubenhold reconstructs their sad lives, which, for some, included struggles with alcoholism and domestic abuse. She believes that the women found dead on the streets of London's East End may have been sleeping rough, and that all were slaughtered while asleep, a theory that explains the absence of outcries or defensive wounds. The lack of grisly forensic details highlighted in other books on the subject will be a relief to many readers. This moving work is a must for Ripperologists . Agent: Sarah Ballard, United Agents. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Review by Library Journal Review
"A great moral act" was how the judges for the Baillie Gifford prize, the UK's most prestigious literary award for nonfiction, characterized social historian Rubenhold's (The Lady in Red: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal, and Divorce) depiction of the lives of Jack the Ripper's victims. While the details of the Ripper's 1888 murderous rampage are well known, and often gruesomely glorified, few people can name even one of his five victims. Now, thanks to Rubenhold's meticulously researched, humane portraits of the full lives of Polly Nichols, Anne Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Katherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly, listeners will come to truly know, and mourn, these five women. Using primary sources that record the lives of "ordinary" people such as census and court records, school documents, ships' manifests, and workhouse and public housing documents, Rubenhold tells each woman's distinct life story, exploding the myth that they were all sex workers. Persuasively arguing that the laws and social structure of Victorian society combined to almost completely disenfranchise women, Rubenhold shows that without the misogyny and classism of the times, it is unlikely that these five resourceful woman would have ended up in such dire straits, often homeless and hopelessly addicted to alcohol. Narrator Louise Brealey, whom listeners may recognize from her portrayal of quirky Molly Hooper on BBC's Sherlock, compassionately relays the compelling narratives, her measured delivery helping to soften the devastating details. VERDICT This heartbreaking work, both a micro and macro look at the precarious nature of Victorian-era working-class life, is an important addition to all history, true crime, and women's studies collections.--Beth Farrell, Cleveland State Univ. Law Lib.
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