Tag Archives: Non Fiction

#TheFive by Hallie Rubenhold @HallieRubenhold @DoubledayUK #thefivewomen #iamPollyAnnieElizabethKateMaryJane

Today I’m sharing my review for The Five, the untold lives of the woman killed by Jack The Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold. I’ve recently started reading historical crime  novels and I must say I found this book to be a fascinating read. Read on for my thoughts…..

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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.

Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become far more famous than any of these five women.

Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, historian Hallie Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, and gives these women back their stories.

Five devastating human stories and a dark and moving portrait of Victorian London – the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper

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I have read many true crime books over the years, and they have always focused on infamous killers with little thought given to the victims. I’m sure you can all think of a list of infamous killers, but can you remember any of the victims’ names or their life stories? Probably not I know I can’t, which is desperately sad. This book provides the reader with an incredible insight into the five victims of Jack The Ripper, Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane. Yes, they were victims of the most atrocious crimes,  but Helen Rubenhold’s The Five finally gives these women a voice. Beautifully written the author brings 1888 London to life, but more importantly she brings to life the five women, giving them back their dignity, which for almost 150 years they have been cruelly denied.

As a reader of true crime I have read many books on Jack The Ripper and many of them describe the five victims as prostitutes, a fact that obscured the truth about the women’s real life’s, (only one of the five women sold her body for money). Even back in 1888 the victims of Jack The Ripper were blighted by ‘here say’ and speculation, they were shaped and embellished to make the crimes more newsworthy (sound familiar?).  As most of the victims had no permanent roof over their heads or a husband to protect them, they were seen to be outcasts and so considered to be corrupt and impure, they faced violence, abuse, lived day to day, hungry, cold and unloved, was it any wonder every single one of the woman had struggled with alcohol addiction.

Towards the end of their short life’s circumstances for each woman changed, either through bad choices or misfortune.  Perceived to be either “broken women” or  “fallen women” It’s at this point they were treated with contempt,  and even in death the rumour mill spewed false accusations and showed little sympathy for the Ripper’s victims. None of the women were treated as individual victims in death, but were banded together as victims of “an unfortunate class”, which made me angry and incredibly sad. For the first time ever someone has taken the time to share their stories, they are desperately sad and harrowing but at the same time we see them as wife’s, daughters, and mothers, who faced adversary, and poverty, where every day was a struggle for survival, sometimes wrong choices were made, but then the choices these women had were very limited by circumstances.

Helen Rubenhold’s descriptions of a London in 1888 are vividly described, the sounds, the smells, the doss houses, overcrowded slums, the pubs, transport you back to an age where poverty, malnutrition and disease were rife. It’s obvious the author has extensively researched her subject. Although some parts are speculative, she has incorporated as much factual detail where ever possible. I should mention, if you’re expecting gruesome details of the murders of these five women, or another theory to the ripper’s identity then this book won’t be for you. If you are looking for a powerful book, that blends true crime and one that’s rich in historical detail, that gives a voice to #FiveWoman, Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane, then The Five is definitely a book I would recommend.

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (28 Feb. 2019)

Buying links :  Amazon UK 🇬🇧   Amazon US 🇺🇸

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The book review café Book of the month **March 2019**

 

 

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April has finally arrived and hopefully Spring is on it’s way, although it’s not feeling very spring like at the moment!

I normally post my book of the month on the first day of every month, but unfortunately I haven’t been well and decided to take a short break from blogging, but I’ve finally got a round to choosing my book of the month.

For the third month running I’m determined to stick to there only being one book of the month, yet again this was an impossible task as I read so many books in March that I really enjoyed, but finally I narrowed it down to ONE book and here it is……..⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️

On My Life by Angela Clarke

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Hells bells what an exciting and engrossing read On My Life by Angela Clarke turned out to be. If you love a prison drama, then look no further, it’s definitely dramatic, the vivid prison scenes depicted by the author give a sense of malevolence that radiate from its pages, it’s a book that’s fraught with tension. The author’s depiction of  HMP Fallenbrook is so convincing it doesn’t take much imagination to sense the claustrophobic feel of the prison, the constant noise, the lack of privacy, a world where violence and fighting for survival going hand in hand. This book is more than a crime thriller, it’s a searing account of one woman’s journey through a failed Justice system. You can find my full review here…..#OnMyLife by Angela Clarke #MustReads #BlogTour @TheAngelaClarke @

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A Gift For Dying by M.J.Arlidge @mjarlidge @MichaelJBooks #MustReads2019

#FourFeetUnder By Tamsen Courtenay @TamsenC_writer @unbounders #Recommended #TrueStory #Homeless

#NoLookingBack by Alex Kane #BlogTour #MustReads @AlexKaneWriter @HeraBooks @BOTBSPublicity

#DayOfTheAccident by Nuala Ellwood #BookReview @NualaWrites @PenguinUKBooks #Giveaway #SignedPaperback

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen @greerkh @sarahpekkanen @panmacmillan #2019MustReads

#TheSting by Kimberley Chambers #MustReads2019 @

The Secret Child by Caroline Mitchell #CrimeSeries #MustReads @Caroline_Writes

Books I’m hoping to read in April

Although these books could change depending on my mood, also I have a few books sitting on my own TBR list that I’m desperate to read.

 

 

 

#FourFeetUnder By Tamsen Courtenay @TamsenC_writer @unbounders #Recommended #TrueStory #Homeless

Today I’m sharing my review for a very different book from my usual reads, Four Feet Under by Tamsen Courtenay. It’s the untold stories of the homeless living in London, this has to be one of the most powerful and poignant books I’ve ever read.

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Tamsen Courtenay spent two months speaking to people who live on London’s streets, the homeless and the destitute – people who feel they are invisible. With a camera and a cheap audio recorder, she listened as they chronicled their extraordinary lives, now being lived four feet below most Londoners, and she set about documenting their stories, which are transcribed in this book along with intimate photographic portraits.

A builder, a soldier, a transgender woman, a child and an elderly couple are among those who describe the events that brought them to the lives they lead now. They speak of childhoods, careers and relationships; their strengths and weaknesses, dreams and regrets; all with humour and a startling honesty.

Tamsen’s observations and remarkable experiences are threaded throughout. The astonishing people she met changed her for ever, as they became her heroes, people she grew to respect. You don’t have to go far to find these homegrown exiles: they’re at the bottom of your road. Have you ever wondered how they got there? 

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This is probably one of the most difficult books I’ve ever chosen to review, it’s definitely not one I would consider to be an enjoyable read, far from it, in fact It’s heartbreaking, shocking, and disturbing, as I turned each page I found myself grateful for the small things I take for granted, hot water, heating, clean clothes, the love of my family, the list is endless. Four Feet Under is a powerful and moving insight into the day-to-day lives of some the unfortunate people who through tragedy, misfortune and bad decisions have found themselves living on the streets of Britain, displaced, dispossessed and destitute. This book deals with complex issues such as drug use, prostitution, and mental health issues although very upsetting but it also gives an incredible insight into the homeless.

Four Feet Under a collection of stories told by the homeless, Tamsen Courtenay presents them in such a way the voices and personalities of the people she interviews shine through, they answer questions with honestly and despite their desperately sad stories and the circumstances they find themselves in, there are humorous moments amid the heart breaking ones. Some of the  stories challenge our own assumptions, others show how easily homelessness can happen through bad luck, misfortune, or making a wrong decision. Harsh treatment by impoverished authorities is also a common theme, some of the homeless featured aren’t considered not to be “enough of a hardship case” to qualify for help, despite them having serious medical problems.

As I read Four Feet Under there were so many stories that deeply affected me Charisse, who walked out on an abusive relationship, Jane and Kenny, a couple in their 60s who sleep beneath the Waterloo Imax cinema, Jade born to a teenage mother and a father who’s a paedophile and a pimp, were just a few that broke me.   Despite the hardship and the brutality many have suffered on the streets, their resilience is incredible and inspiring.

In the past I have given money to the homeless but is that enough? If anything, this book made me realise “yes” they need money to live day to day, but they also need a smile, a kind word, a cup of coffee, anything to make them feel less invisible than they already are. Tamsen Courtenay writes in a sympathetic and non judgemental way,  she doesn’t sugar the atrocities of the people she has interviewed, it’s the harsh reality for the people who live “Four Feet Under”. Although this book will not bring about big changes, the author has given the homeless a voice, a chance to share their fears, dreams and more importantly their stories, something they miss living on the streets where conversation is limited. This book has left me with a massive book hangover, but for all the wrong reasons, I can’t help wondering what happened to the characters in the book, and I’ve a feeling their stories will stay will haunt me for a long time to come. Highly recommended.

  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Unbound (23 Aug. 2018

Buying link:    Amazon UK 🇬🇧

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