Yes, another book relating to Jack the Ripper but only in as much as the name. ‘Jack the Ripper’ was the name given to the serial killer who is believed to have been responsible for the murder of the five women who Dr. Robert Hume looks at in this book.
Written in five chapters, each focusing on the life, or what has been found out about the life of the women who were murdered in 1888 this book is easy to read and written towards the everyday reader rather than being a specialised book.
There are no gizmos and gadgets, no revelations or speculation, Hume presents the evidence he has gathered to us about these women and how they should not be judged for what they were. That they should be looked at as individuals who were more than just murder victims. These women had lives, families, and children. Their lives were not easy and through some bad choices and sometimes circumstance beyond their control, they all fell down the slippery slope to protection. The only thing that makes these women stand out and remembered is the fact that they were murdered.
The women and their families and friends are brought to life by Hume’s words. We meet Mary Ann Nichols, who was married for 24 years and had five children. Annie Chapman who was born out of wedlock, and although her parents eventually married and gave her siblings, it seems that Annie had a very different view of life than they did. We are transported to 19th century Norway in the early years of Elizabeth Stride and how she started her route into Prostitution before coming to London. In the fourth chapter we meet the fierce tempered Catherine Eddowes who has a positive outlook on life in her early teens but soon strayed. Our last chapter is Mary Jane Kelly, the youngest of all the victims whose beginnings in Ireland and Wales we cannot be 100% certain off. Hume uses testimonies from the time to bring the words of those that knew these women to the page.
Hume discusses the finding of their bodies and the wonunds inflicted on them. Unlike a number of other books he does not try to identify who could have done it or why. This is purely for these women, of which there were thousands living similar lives at the time. It highlights how even though they all had different circumstances they ended up in the same place and how history has decided (initially anyway) to label these women as unfortunates and immoral when really they were doing what they could to survive.
Although it was good not to have a theory pushed upon the reader by the author, of course, it is not the aim of the book, for this reader I would have been interested in a little piece at the end of the author’s views on the matter. After all every ripperologist and those who like mysteries, everyone has an opinion.
Aside from that which is purely my personal negative of the book, The secret lives of Jack the Rippers Victims is a very straight to the point account of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly lives. A great book for those who are just getting started in Ripperology and want something, which is to the point, or for those looking to understand and study the life of women in the Victorian era.
For the Love of History rating: 4/5