Whitechapel 1888 was no place for a lady. Not only were poverty, disease, crime and alcoholism rife, but there was a notorious killer on the loose whose savagery, it seemed, knew no limits. But Jack the Ripper wasn’t the only murderer preying on woman at that time.
The Ladies of Whitechapel by Denise Bloom sits as a worthy companion piece to Hallie Rubenhold’s The Five: the Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper. But whereas that was a work of social history, Bloom’s book is a novelised account of four gruesome deaths that occurred around the Ripper murders, in the same borough and in the same year.
This novel, which is presented as four self-contained stories, albeit it with overlapping themes, locations and characters, tells the tale of a high society woman who abandons her life of privilege for true love, a bereaved woman abandoned by uncaring relatives, a music hall entertainer raped by a lord. But it was the account, told in the first person, of one woman’s descent into destitution that I found the most affecting, because of the immediacy of the narrative and the doomed resilience of the character in whose company we find ourselves.
The fog-shrouded alleyways and grimy taverns of late Victorian London are vividly evoked, and the squalor in which these women are forced to eke out their lives is palpable. Every day they are stalked by multiple spectres, not all of whom carry knives. There is alcoholism, domestic violence and men rich enough to not have to worry about small things like consequences. And just as it was with Rubenhold’s book, you finish The Ladies of Whitechapel with the dark impression that none of the women who lived there in 1888 stood a chance.
The Ladies of Whitechapel is published by Darkstroke Books and is available from Amazon.