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Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French and English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes

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This riveting combination of true crime and social history examines a dozen cases from the 1800s involving thirteen French and English women charged with murder. Each incident was a cause célèbre, and this mixture of scandal and scholarship offers illuminating details of backgrounds, deeds, and trials. "The real delight is that historian Mary S. Hartman does more than recon This riveting combination of true crime and social history examines a dozen cases from the 1800s involving thirteen French and English women charged with murder. Each incident was a cause célèbre, and this mixture of scandal and scholarship offers illuminating details of backgrounds, deeds, and trials. "The real delight is that historian Mary S. Hartman does more than reconstruct twelve famous trials. She has written a piece on the social history of nineteenth-century women from an illuminating perspective: their favorite murders." — Time Magazine "Noteworthy …. It has several distinctions: its expert prose style, its scholarly authority, and its perceptive analysis of the prevailing attitudes toward women's roles and domestic relations."—Criticism "The author would have made a fine detective …. When she observes the women and men in extreme circumstances, she writes with the gift of a novelist and the depth of a scholar." — Los Angeles Times "Vividly written, meticulously researched." — Choice "Loved this book and so glad to see it's been returned to print! You can't beat the highly readable scholarly treatment of these 13 Victorian murderesses. Harman does a spectacular job of bringing these women and the carnage they created into the 20th and 21st centuries as well as giving the reader an excellent feminist critique of their reception in scholarly and popular culture. Pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy the variety of their crimes and their drive to define themselves outside the constrictions of Victorian life." — Under the Covers and Reading


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This riveting combination of true crime and social history examines a dozen cases from the 1800s involving thirteen French and English women charged with murder. Each incident was a cause célèbre, and this mixture of scandal and scholarship offers illuminating details of backgrounds, deeds, and trials. "The real delight is that historian Mary S. Hartman does more than recon This riveting combination of true crime and social history examines a dozen cases from the 1800s involving thirteen French and English women charged with murder. Each incident was a cause célèbre, and this mixture of scandal and scholarship offers illuminating details of backgrounds, deeds, and trials. "The real delight is that historian Mary S. Hartman does more than reconstruct twelve famous trials. She has written a piece on the social history of nineteenth-century women from an illuminating perspective: their favorite murders." — Time Magazine "Noteworthy …. It has several distinctions: its expert prose style, its scholarly authority, and its perceptive analysis of the prevailing attitudes toward women's roles and domestic relations."—Criticism "The author would have made a fine detective …. When she observes the women and men in extreme circumstances, she writes with the gift of a novelist and the depth of a scholar." — Los Angeles Times "Vividly written, meticulously researched." — Choice "Loved this book and so glad to see it's been returned to print! You can't beat the highly readable scholarly treatment of these 13 Victorian murderesses. Harman does a spectacular job of bringing these women and the carnage they created into the 20th and 21st centuries as well as giving the reader an excellent feminist critique of their reception in scholarly and popular culture. Pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy the variety of their crimes and their drive to define themselves outside the constrictions of Victorian life." — Under the Covers and Reading

30 review for Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French and English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cleopatra Pullen

    There is something quite fascinating about women who murder, and judging by the amount of contemporary reporting of the details about the cases featured in this book, nothing much has changed over time. In this book the author has selected an Englishwoman and a Frenchwoman for each chapter based upon the circumstances, rather than the method of their crimes. All the women featured are from the middle-classes and a certain amount of conjecture is used to paint a picture of this class of women fro There is something quite fascinating about women who murder, and judging by the amount of contemporary reporting of the details about the cases featured in this book, nothing much has changed over time. In this book the author has selected an Englishwoman and a Frenchwoman for each chapter based upon the circumstances, rather than the method of their crimes. All the women featured are from the middle-classes and a certain amount of conjecture is used to paint a picture of this class of women from the details of their cases the reasoning of the author being that these women’s lives weren’t documented or studied in the way of the lower classes and so using these cause celebres can give us a glimpse behind the drawing room curtains of their lives. I’m not completely convinced by this argument but for some of the broader details it works, for instance the chapters that touch upon contraceptive gives us an idea of how widespread or acceptable this was in Victorian England for the middle-classes. The beauty of this book is threefold; the details of the crimes committed the resulting investigation and if appropriate trial, the popular opinion at the time of the guilt or innocence of those accused using contemporary media and lastly the particular social issues that may have led these women to act outside the law and kill another person. Each case presented was interesting and appeared to be well-researched, although one of the downsides of reading this kind of book on the kindle is that following the notes as you go along is very time-consuming so I tended to wait until I’d finished a chapter to catch-up on these. The fact that there were two women per chapter means that the reader does need to concentrate once the initial setting of the scene has happened, as the author switches between the two subjects to compare and contrast the difference between the two societies in a number of different spheres, including popular opinion and expectations. The author states in the preface: These accused daughters, wives and mothers have little to teach any would-be twentieth-century practitioner about the art of murder; nearly all of them bungled badly in the ac, and those who got away with it relied upon methods that required special circumstances and relations between the sexes which no longer obtain. And that is precisely what makes this study so interesting, women can no longer act coy in the witness box, but they could, and were expected to, in Victorian England and so many of the more salacious details are hinted at rather than baldly stated both at the trial and the resultant reporting. The cases cover the years 1840-1890’s and the subjects covered are: Marie Lafarge and Euphemie Lacoste which covers the use of arsenic in matriomony Madeline Smith and Angelina Lemoine who were both between school and marriage when they were accused of killing their lovers Celestine Doudet and Constance Kent who were both spinsters when they murdered Florence Bravo and Henriette Francey the so called new women who were defying the old order of society Gabrielle Fenayrou and Adelaide Bartlett both wives of shopkeepers who were reported to have committed adultery Florence Maybrick and Claire Reymond who were allegedly victims of the double standards held at the time. I found this book both interesting and informative although the language at time is quite dry, this is a study rather than a book for entertainment but one that I will be seeking a physical copy of on my bookshelf to supplement my Victorian crime selection. This book was originally published back in 1976 but has been re-released in 2014 for a new generation of readers by Dover Publications who were kind enough to give me a copy of this book in return for my honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    OutlawPoet

    Scholarly, But Fascinating When I chose to read this book, I thought I was getting something lightweight - a scandalous, fluffy, and sensationalist book about murderesses. I had my popcorn ready. But as I started to read, I realized that this is a serious and scholarly study of a woman's place in Victorian society, how it lead to various murders, and how society's view of women impacted the outcome of various murder investigations. And I still munched my popcorn. This is an intelligently written an Scholarly, But Fascinating When I chose to read this book, I thought I was getting something lightweight - a scandalous, fluffy, and sensationalist book about murderesses. I had my popcorn ready. But as I started to read, I realized that this is a serious and scholarly study of a woman's place in Victorian society, how it lead to various murders, and how society's view of women impacted the outcome of various murder investigations. And I still munched my popcorn. This is an intelligently written and fascinating historical perspective that completely opened my eyes to life as a Victorian woman. The book really isn't about the murders per se, so if you are expecting gruesome details and salacious photos, move on. Instead, you get an in depth and very personal look into the lives of thirteen woman, as well as a perspective, based on their experiences, of life in general at that time. Yes, there is sex (in some cases a lot of it), poison, and intrigue, but it's bracketed by a serious look at how woman were treated then - and now. I would have wished for more photos of the woman in question (if they exist) and, yes I admit it, a little more gruesome detail, but this was a fascinating read!

  3. 5 out of 5

    BAM Endlessly Booked

    I found this book's layout a bit confusing. Two women per chapter. Their cases were compared. Except the chapters were really long and the print was minuscule and it was easy to twist the two up. The cases themselves were interesting. Only one had I read about in its own book. I found this book's layout a bit confusing. Two women per chapter. Their cases were compared. Except the chapters were really long and the print was minuscule and it was easy to twist the two up. The cases themselves were interesting. Only one had I read about in its own book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Janice Schulz

    Victorian Murderesses epitomizes everything I look for in a true crime study. Mary Hartman tells the stories of 12 women in England and France accused of murder in the mid- to late-nineteenth century, including their motivations, the crimes they committed, and their court trials. (Curiously the book's subtitle claims 13 women, but I only count 12.) Far from making it a mere sensationalized tale, Hartman delves into the societal influences that she believes had a bearing on the way their lives de Victorian Murderesses epitomizes everything I look for in a true crime study. Mary Hartman tells the stories of 12 women in England and France accused of murder in the mid- to late-nineteenth century, including their motivations, the crimes they committed, and their court trials. (Curiously the book's subtitle claims 13 women, but I only count 12.) Far from making it a mere sensationalized tale, Hartman delves into the societal influences that she believes had a bearing on the way their lives developed and the decisions that they made. Additionally, she looks at how the public reacted to the crimes and the women who committed them, especially the way other women treated the subject of female murderers based on class, family, values, and norms .  Broken up into six parts, the book examines two women at a time, using some comparative element that ties their crime, their domestic situation, or their influences. Victorian Murderesses is well researched and expertly written. Unlike some true crime authors, Hartman does not attempt to fictionalize the narrative of her subjects, but skillfully uses letters and trial transcripts to bring them to life without making the book read like a simple regurgitation of facts. She also breaks down each crime after describing it and attempts to determine what actually happened based on the evidence, despite the recorded outcome.  I highly recommend this book for true crime enthusiasts and anyone interested in Victorian history.

  5. 5 out of 5

    A.L. Butcher

    3.5 stars This is not a bad book, but it's not particularly good either - at least structurwise The cases included in this text are: - Marie Lafarge and Euphemie Lacoste; - Madeleine Smith and Angelina  Lemoine; - Celestine Doudet and Constance Kent; - Florence Bravo and Henriette Francy; - Gabrielle Fenayrou and Adelaide Bartlett; - Florence Maybrick and Claire Reymond. Good points:  The French cases were largely unknown to me and that aspect was interesting. The comparisons between French and English mi 3.5 stars This is not a bad book, but it's not particularly good either - at least structurwise The cases included in this text are: - Marie Lafarge and Euphemie Lacoste; - Madeleine Smith and Angelina  Lemoine; - Celestine Doudet and Constance Kent; - Florence Bravo and Henriette Francy; - Gabrielle Fenayrou and Adelaide Bartlett; - Florence Maybrick and Claire Reymond. Good points:  The French cases were largely unknown to me and that aspect was interesting. The comparisons between French and English middle-class society and the position of women were fairly well discussed.  There was a mix of cases, although all were 'respectable' women from the time. What was expected of middle-class women, and her own expectations - marriage, children and running the household - were discussed at length.  Many had arranged marriages - often to men much older, or totally unsuitable. Divorce was not a viable option, especially as the father would have maintained control of any children, and the money. Thus most of this women were stuck in relationships, not of their choosing (with the exception of Madeleine Smith - who was in a relationship with a man below her station and disapproved of by her family).  Although the cases were discussed fairly sympathetically there was a lot of the authors own views on whether the particular murderess was guilty of the crime she committed. Not all were, and those who were found guilty may not have been. At least one was judged on her moral crimes (adultery) as much as the actual murder. The author had done her research and it showed. The social comparisons were good and I think the most interesting aspect was the emerging position of women in both France and England during the 19th century.  There was good focus on the societal aspects of what may have caused these women to take, or consider taking, the ultimate solution to their woes. Bad points: The book jumped around a lot. All the time. It became hard to follow and sometimes wasn't clear which case was being discussed. References to other cases made things more confusing. The accounts were long and meandered. They became stories in their own right. Why is this bad? For a book that is meant to be a non-fic there was too much of the 'newspaper' style telling. Give me the facts - if I want a fiction on the subject I'll read historical fic about the cases.  There were quite a few formatting issues.  I just couldn't really get into the long, often dry accounts of the crimes. It's a shame because the sociological side of the book was interesting for the most part. If the book had been more structured then the rating would have been higher.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Heath

    So much arsenic.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Addison

    This is a good and interesting book, but it's definitely far more Women's Studies than it is True Crime. Hartman pairs 6 sets of French and English women who were tried for murder in the 19th century, and analyzes their crimes in terms of women's rights and expectations around marriage. (I say "around" rather than "in" because 2 of the women, Constance Kent and Celestine Doudet, were unmarried.) She's interested, as she says, in using these causes celebres to illuminate the lives of ordinary bou This is a good and interesting book, but it's definitely far more Women's Studies than it is True Crime. Hartman pairs 6 sets of French and English women who were tried for murder in the 19th century, and analyzes their crimes in terms of women's rights and expectations around marriage. (I say "around" rather than "in" because 2 of the women, Constance Kent and Celestine Doudet, were unmarried.) She's interested, as she says, in using these causes celebres to illuminate the lives of ordinary bourgeois women, rather than having any particular interest in the crimes themselves. So her interpretations and analyses of the women's crimes are about as you'd expect, heavy on the abstract and light on the forensic follow-through. I mean, it's not her fault that Kate Summerscale came along and wrote The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, but it's still true that that book makes Hartman's analysis of the murder of Francis Savile Kent look particularly shoddy. Given my own interests, I found the book a little disappointing, but it did introduce me to a number of French murderesses whom I had not known about.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Donna Davis

    Note the change. My review below, a three star review, stands as written. However, my teenager, a high school senior, grabbed this book the instant I set it down, and proclaims it to be "...even better than I thought!" She is using it to acquire extra credit in world history class, and speaks about the various murderesses as if they were family members. This one, she thinks was vindicated; that one, she has NO sympathy for. So from our household, the average is now four stars; three from me, and fi Note the change. My review below, a three star review, stands as written. However, my teenager, a high school senior, grabbed this book the instant I set it down, and proclaims it to be "...even better than I thought!" She is using it to acquire extra credit in world history class, and speaks about the various murderesses as if they were family members. This one, she thinks was vindicated; that one, she has NO sympathy for. So from our household, the average is now four stars; three from me, and five from Emiko. "True crime" is a big house with a whole lot of rooms. Some true crime books are deliciously prurient; others are as dusty as the top of a ten foot tall bookcase. In this case, the title ("unspeakable") and the jacket artist lead the reader to believe we are really going to get down and dish the dirt, and what is more...it's all true! Instead, what we have here is a very well-written, well-documented, extremely scholarly if surprisingly dry bit of research, maybe the author's advanced degree work. The collision between the teaser and the product are somewhat jarring. This was a First Read sent me free through the Goodreads program and the publisher. I would have abandoned it more readily had I not felt a duty to get through it. What would have fit the bill without ruining the author's hard work is a good piece of juicy narrative nonfiction. Put in the documentation, but pick up the pace! As is, the book is sometimes a feminist treatise that all but blames Victorian society's social contract for slut-shaming as an understandable excuse for murder in the case of unsuitable, unmarriable mates of the lower classes (sorry, no sympathy here), or a self-defensive maneuver against constant verbal abuse, without the loss of a high standard of living that came with the ornery groom. A baby born out of wedlock gets snuffed when an abortion can't be obtained. At other times, the pace quickens a bit, as if the author is about to get excited and take us along with her, but then her dispassionate researcher's mind grabs hold of her--stop it right now, you're getting worked up!--and we go back to the librarian's hushed monotone. The font, while suitably Victorian, is really tiny and hard on the eyes. It may be that I am being unfair to Hartman; she has done a good deal of work here, and the fault may lie with Dover or whoever is publishing and promoting her work. All I know is that I expected this to be a fun read, and it wasn't. I kept pushing it away in favor of other reading, as if postponing the book might make me like it better once I returned to it. A strong, scholarly effort that should have been marketed as such. Not a Halloween read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andréa

    The subject matter is quite interesting, but it's addressed in a much more scholarly, academic way than I was expecting. Each chapter contrasts two similar murderesses, switching back and forth between their stories, which makes it hard to keep the individual stories straight. The introduction and conclusion completely summarize the cases studied, much the way a collegiate thesis or dissertation would, and refer to the text as "this study". All in all, it's an intriguing book, but definitely not The subject matter is quite interesting, but it's addressed in a much more scholarly, academic way than I was expecting. Each chapter contrasts two similar murderesses, switching back and forth between their stories, which makes it hard to keep the individual stories straight. The introduction and conclusion completely summarize the cases studied, much the way a collegiate thesis or dissertation would, and refer to the text as "this study". All in all, it's an intriguing book, but definitely not a quick or easy read. Note: I received a digital galley of this book through NetGalley.

  10. 4 out of 5

    H.L. Stephens

    I think my great mistake with this book was having read other books that had a more extensive history of each woman and the crime(s) she was accused of committing. There seemed to be more conjecture than detail in this book and I like the facts more than speculation, especially when each segment is so abbreviated. All in all, it is a good starting place for the novice who is curious about Victorian crimes committed by women. I would not recommend however stopping here.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    2.5 stars. This book should have been really interesting, but I had a lot of trouble getting into it. I didn't find the author's writing style to be very compelling, which I think was a large part of the problem for me. Also, I thought that including 2 women in each chapter and going back and forth between them got confusing at times - I would have preferred a single chapter for each subject. Received from NetGalley. 2.5 stars. This book should have been really interesting, but I had a lot of trouble getting into it. I didn't find the author's writing style to be very compelling, which I think was a large part of the problem for me. Also, I thought that including 2 women in each chapter and going back and forth between them got confusing at times - I would have preferred a single chapter for each subject. Received from NetGalley.

  12. 5 out of 5

    graveyardgremlin

    While I appreciate the extensive research that went into this book, the thorough (and I do mean thorough!) examinations of how these women might have grown up and the expectations of what their lot in life should be, plus other circumstances makes it a real drag to read. If this was for some womens' class, it'd be a good study, but for me, it's going back to the library. While I appreciate the extensive research that went into this book, the thorough (and I do mean thorough!) examinations of how these women might have grown up and the expectations of what their lot in life should be, plus other circumstances makes it a real drag to read. If this was for some womens' class, it'd be a good study, but for me, it's going back to the library.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Susanne

    Really enjoyed this. Social & historical analysis plus probable reconstructions of the crimes. Scholarly and entertaining. And in at least one of these cases--that I've read about before and the woman is always portrayed as innocent-- thanks to this meticulous research & reconstruction, I'm now convinced she was totally guilty. Really enjoyed this. Social & historical analysis plus probable reconstructions of the crimes. Scholarly and entertaining. And in at least one of these cases--that I've read about before and the woman is always portrayed as innocent-- thanks to this meticulous research & reconstruction, I'm now convinced she was totally guilty.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey

    It was really interesting, but a bit dry and academic. I'd love to take a class that had this on the syllabus, but as a pleasure-read it was a little dull. It was really interesting, but a bit dry and academic. I'd love to take a class that had this on the syllabus, but as a pleasure-read it was a little dull.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jean Walton

    The only thing about this book that surprised me was the fact that there weren't more of such cases bearing in mind the way women, marriage and sex were viewed at the time. Women rarely got to choose their own husbands. This was usually done by their parents more with a view to money and status than with a view to happiness. Most were married off to much older husbands and were expected to produce healthy children. In those days venereal disease was rife, along with its corresponding mental illn The only thing about this book that surprised me was the fact that there weren't more of such cases bearing in mind the way women, marriage and sex were viewed at the time. Women rarely got to choose their own husbands. This was usually done by their parents more with a view to money and status than with a view to happiness. Most were married off to much older husbands and were expected to produce healthy children. In those days venereal disease was rife, along with its corresponding mental illness and everyone was on the make including servants who knew a lot about what went on and also knew knowledge was power. Also things like arsenic and chloroform were easily obtained. It really is amazing that even more murders were not committed.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Johanna

    True crime along with great sociological analysis of women's changing roles, class issues, and retrospective forensic analysis. I highly recommend to anyone who likes women's history and critical analysis. True crime along with great sociological analysis of women's changing roles, class issues, and retrospective forensic analysis. I highly recommend to anyone who likes women's history and critical analysis.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Diane Heath

    Sadly the title is the most interesting part of the book. Amazing that such a topic can be so dryly portrayed

  18. 5 out of 5

    Susan Johnston

    Victorian times were fraught with change. In both England and France, to a lesser degree, society shifted dramatically. The expectations of the middle class and the subsequent transitions to more modern times perhaps impacted women more than men. While still bound by the double standard in society and morality, still with less rights than their husbands, more and more women shed the old standards and adopted new expectations. Ms. Hartman has done an excellent job retelling 13 tales of murder comm Victorian times were fraught with change. In both England and France, to a lesser degree, society shifted dramatically. The expectations of the middle class and the subsequent transitions to more modern times perhaps impacted women more than men. While still bound by the double standard in society and morality, still with less rights than their husbands, more and more women shed the old standards and adopted new expectations. Ms. Hartman has done an excellent job retelling 13 tales of murder committed by wives during this era. One will get the full picture of what led up to the murders and what happened in the justice system. As she points out, there were clearly some who literally got away with murder and others who were convicted but whose guilt is now suspect. Almost as much as the crimes themselves, the outcomes were determined partly by the way the justice system(the men) perceived the women and their actions. It was an interesting note that of all the women convicted of murder during this time, very few were of the middle and upper middle class. If you were poor the Scales of Justice were more likely to tip against you. The social history that interweaves in the stories is compelling. While in many cases, the women were "wronged", how they chose to deal with it had much to do with the prevailing sentiments of the time. We learn how crimes of passion involving acid were quite popular for a while and that it was considered less of a crime if the victim was the other woman rather than the spouse. It is also interesting how the larger family dynamic, the parents of the women, became a less factor in England than in France because of the ways the societies evolved. The role of employees also evolved as society lessened the "bondage" of loyalty that had silenced those serving the families involved. But do not expect this to be a ponderous social history. The author has been able to retain the historical integrity of her work with spinning a good yarn. Whether you believe the ladies were treated justly or unjustly, almost all tell a cautionary tale: beware a woman scorned.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lise

    I received a free copy of this book from the Goodreads First Reads program. I'm torn between 4 and 5 stars for this one, but I think I can say 'it was amazing' without meaning 'I absolutely adored it'. The book is both very readable and very information dense. It illuminates both the mid-to-late Victorian period (which it covers) and the 1970's (when it was written). The premise of the book is that by examining the lives of accused middle class murderesses in the period, through the copious docume I received a free copy of this book from the Goodreads First Reads program. I'm torn between 4 and 5 stars for this one, but I think I can say 'it was amazing' without meaning 'I absolutely adored it'. The book is both very readable and very information dense. It illuminates both the mid-to-late Victorian period (which it covers) and the 1970's (when it was written). The premise of the book is that by examining the lives of accused middle class murderesses in the period, through the copious documentation brought about by 'celebrity' cases, we can get a better idea of what life must have been for average women in the same demographic group. It also shows how different life was for English and French women in the same period, and how the expectations and realities they changed over the time in question. The accused involved include some who were probably innocent, one who was clearly coerced, and a few who were almost certainly guilty. Some were out and out nuts, one was horribly sadistic, some were manipulative, some were ignorant, some were just trying to get by. Most impressively, all of them come across as believable and comprehensible, and yet, the legal establishment which tried them seemed incapable of recognizing them as ordinary humans with ordinary, human motivations. This, more than the murders themselves, makes it a chilling read. There were some tantalizing snippets here. English women, especially in the early part of the 19th century, lost what freedom they had through marriage, while French women gained it. "Free Love" wasn't at all what I thought, though, apparently, some contemporary officials shared my misapprehension. [The truth makes me want to read more H.G. Wells, which is in and of itself a good thing.] The behavior of women at the trials, and the reaction of their menfolk to it, is fascinating in and of itself. I'm sure I'll come back to this book, especially if I ever get around to designing that Victorian RPG scenario...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kathrin

    I received a free copy of this book. In "Victorian Murderesses" you are presented with 13 crime cases set in the Victorian era. The book is divided into several chapters dealing different aspects of crimes. In most cases there is an English and French woman and the author pays attention on showing the differences in both countries. I read quite a lot of crime literature and thus are interested in real crimes and how the public dealt with them. Until now, I haven't read much non fiction books abo I received a free copy of this book. In "Victorian Murderesses" you are presented with 13 crime cases set in the Victorian era. The book is divided into several chapters dealing different aspects of crimes. In most cases there is an English and French woman and the author pays attention on showing the differences in both countries. I read quite a lot of crime literature and thus are interested in real crimes and how the public dealt with them. Until now, I haven't read much non fiction books about the era which made it even more interesting for me to learn more about a women's life back then. I really liked the fact that the author paid attention to both English and French women. The different topics in the book were well presented although I found some more interesting than others. But this is not necessarily a bad thing as this is just my personal opinion. The book was quite informative and I enjoyed reading it but there were some passages that were maybe a little too scholarly. The chapters are rather long and sometimes it was quite difficult to focus on the important facts. Nevertheless, I liked the author's way of presenting the accused's life, their motives and the impact of their social standing. It's not really a light read but if you can handle that much information you'll have a great time reading the book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tom Mueller

    Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door is a graphic description of Sylvia Likens' 1965 torture/murder by Gertrude Baniszewski in Indiana. Apathy of witnesses who heard ongoing torture, at least 15 involved in torture. is based on this murder. After I first read Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, I followed up by reading a lot of newspaper reports and some non-fiction books including Victorian Murderesses, which I learned of in the bibliography in The Basement: A True Story of Violence in an American F Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door is a graphic description of Sylvia Likens' 1965 torture/murder by Gertrude Baniszewski in Indiana. Apathy of witnesses who heard ongoing torture, at least 15 involved in torture. is based on this murder. After I first read Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, I followed up by reading a lot of newspaper reports and some non-fiction books including Victorian Murderesses, which I learned of in the bibliography in The Basement: A True Story of Violence in an American Family. I have a penchant for reading true crime; constantly amazed, horrified and tormented by the atrocities man is capable of inflicting on another human (or any animal as far as that goes). I sometimes wonder why our higher power has allowed us to continue as a species, assuming there is a HP. Nature cannot be cruel, or evil; these distinguishing traits are limited to humans. That creates a conundrum of course; one must ponder if we are in fact a part of nature, or a pure abomination.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marjolein

    READ IN ENGLISH Read all my reviews on http://urlphantomhive.booklikes.com I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you! Normally I never really read a lot of true crime books as I find them mostly speculative or just looking for the scandals in the stories. I'd read some reviews about this book before requesting it and they told me that this book was a lot more than just a mere retelling of the presumed crimes of this women... I' READ IN ENGLISH Read all my reviews on http://urlphantomhive.booklikes.com I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you! Normally I never really read a lot of true crime books as I find them mostly speculative or just looking for the scandals in the stories. I'd read some reviews about this book before requesting it and they told me that this book was a lot more than just a mere retelling of the presumed crimes of this women... I'm quite interested in the Victorian era and this book really helps to understand the society in which these crimes took place and the shifting roles for women in this society. I was actually surprised to learn that women were sent to prison for shorter times and had far greater chances of being acquitted. If you're looking for scandal, this book probably isn't for you. But if you want a well-researched account on the lives of thirteen women in Victorian England and France as well as the story of their crimes, I can recommend this book. I liked it more than I anticipated.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    This is a fascinating look at 19th century "murderesses" and the whys and hows of their actions. Some are pretty brutal, others perhaps self defense. But all, at least in the author's point of view, have a lot to do with the place of the woman in this time period. Without much control over their own lives, these women found themselves in situations that for one reason or another led them to murder (or at least to be accused of it). In some cases the women are found guilty because they are women This is a fascinating look at 19th century "murderesses" and the whys and hows of their actions. Some are pretty brutal, others perhaps self defense. But all, at least in the author's point of view, have a lot to do with the place of the woman in this time period. Without much control over their own lives, these women found themselves in situations that for one reason or another led them to murder (or at least to be accused of it). In some cases the women are found guilty because they are women and it others they are found not guilty because they are women, regardless of the facts in the case. Social status plays a big part too and Hartman compares two women of different classes in each chapter to show how the same crime is viewed differently by society depending on their status. While I enjoyed this book overall, I found it far too academic and detailed. I believe that is what the author was going for so she succeeded there. I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it was a little snappier and literary. But Hartman certainly did her research and I learned a lot about this time period and how women then lived and, in some cases, killed!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    A really interesting examination of crime in the context of gender and class. Some of Hartman's conclusions seem a little stretched to me, but she presents them well with plenty of evidence. Two of the women in this book I'd read about in detail in other books. These other writers drew different conclusions to Hartman and they are worthwhile companion books- The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective and Death at the Priory: Love, Sex, and Murd A really interesting examination of crime in the context of gender and class. Some of Hartman's conclusions seem a little stretched to me, but she presents them well with plenty of evidence. Two of the women in this book I'd read about in detail in other books. These other writers drew different conclusions to Hartman and they are worthwhile companion books- The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective and Death at the Priory: Love, Sex, and Murder in Victorian England. Be aware, that the text is very small and means a lot of close reading. (Book fans may wonder where I bought it, since it's out of print. AbeBooks is a great place to look for out of print works)

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amanda - Go Book Yourself

    Review also posted @ Go Book Yourself A copy was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review In my head I had this idea that Victorian women murdering people and getting up to all sorts of unspeakable things would be more...shocking? I suppose in the 1800's it probably WAS incredibly shocking...but now, not so much. Victorian Murderesses uses court transcripts and letters to re create the murders. It's well written but for some reason that just wasn't enough to hold my interest. The st Review also posted @ Go Book Yourself A copy was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review In my head I had this idea that Victorian women murdering people and getting up to all sorts of unspeakable things would be more...shocking? I suppose in the 1800's it probably WAS incredibly shocking...but now, not so much. Victorian Murderesses uses court transcripts and letters to re create the murders. It's well written but for some reason that just wasn't enough to hold my interest. The stories were brief but the author constantly skipped back and forth between unrelated crimes which really interrupted the flow. I would regard this book as a sort of stepping stone to individual cases of interest as it's not detailed enough for those who have already read extensively in any of the individual cases It's too dry for a pleasure read so I can imagine this book appealing to a limited type of reader. That reader just wasn't me .

  26. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    This book is both historical and sociological. It is a very well-written and researched book on famous Victorian era murders committed by women. This is the historical part. To the author's credit, the stories of these women are interesting and compelling. Despite the considerable research and supporting documentation in the book, there is nothing dry and boring about it. The reader gains a much better understanding of the role of women, particular upper-class and middle-class, during the Victori This book is both historical and sociological. It is a very well-written and researched book on famous Victorian era murders committed by women. This is the historical part. To the author's credit, the stories of these women are interesting and compelling. Despite the considerable research and supporting documentation in the book, there is nothing dry and boring about it. The reader gains a much better understanding of the role of women, particular upper-class and middle-class, during the Victorian era. This is where the sociological aspect of the book comes into play. One can understand and empathize with the plight of women during Victorian times through reading these stories. I learned a lot from this book and expanded my understanding of this era. Another Good Read!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Granny

    My copy has the cool cover from 1978 https://images-eu.ssl-images-amazon.c... (sorry it's a little raggedy). This book is far better than average, devoting a considerable amount of time to drawing a picture of the time and the culture within which these women lived. Then the author delves into the character of the women, analyzing each individually, based on their letters, the letters and testimony of those around them, and other first sources. Each chapter takes two women in similar circumstance My copy has the cool cover from 1978 https://images-eu.ssl-images-amazon.c... (sorry it's a little raggedy). This book is far better than average, devoting a considerable amount of time to drawing a picture of the time and the culture within which these women lived. Then the author delves into the character of the women, analyzing each individually, based on their letters, the letters and testimony of those around them, and other first sources. Each chapter takes two women in similar circumstances, comparing and contrasting them, and eventually giving her best insight as to whether or not each one is guilty. This is a fascinating book, well worth reading.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Selena

    If you are looking for a great read about women who have committed murder in the Victorian era, this is THE book. I really enjoyed the way the chapters were broken up into two murders that were similar. There is in depth study of each case, the history, and the cases. If you are looking for a story, this will not be the book. If you are looking for a historical study, this IS the book to read. I am giving four instead of five stars ONLY because there may have been a little too much information. If you are looking for a great read about women who have committed murder in the Victorian era, this is THE book. I really enjoyed the way the chapters were broken up into two murders that were similar. There is in depth study of each case, the history, and the cases. If you are looking for a story, this will not be the book. If you are looking for a historical study, this IS the book to read. I am giving four instead of five stars ONLY because there may have been a little too much information. I couldn't get some of the facts to relate to why the crimes occurred for a couple of the women.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shelley

    I received a free copy of this book from the Goodreads First Reads program. I found this book a very good source for people who are looking for a great scholarly book on murders which take place during this time period. This is not a book you are going to just sit down and read "for fun" but rather something you will read if you really need some detailed information. I did find quite a bit of it fascinating but at times I was a bit overwhelmed by the detailed information. Another issue that I had I received a free copy of this book from the Goodreads First Reads program. I found this book a very good source for people who are looking for a great scholarly book on murders which take place during this time period. This is not a book you are going to just sit down and read "for fun" but rather something you will read if you really need some detailed information. I did find quite a bit of it fascinating but at times I was a bit overwhelmed by the detailed information. Another issue that I had with the advanced reader copy was the print was very small. I found this distracting. Be sure you are looking for a scholarly book when you pick this one up!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    Huzzah! Hartman is back in print! I loved this book and am so glad to see it's been returned to print. You can't beat the highly readable scholarly treatment of these 13 Victorian murderesses. Harman does a spectacular job of bringing these women and the carnage they created into the 20 and 21st centuries as well as giving the reader an excellent feminist critique of their reception in scholarly and popular culture. Pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy the variety of their crimes and their drive Huzzah! Hartman is back in print! I loved this book and am so glad to see it's been returned to print. You can't beat the highly readable scholarly treatment of these 13 Victorian murderesses. Harman does a spectacular job of bringing these women and the carnage they created into the 20 and 21st centuries as well as giving the reader an excellent feminist critique of their reception in scholarly and popular culture. Pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy the variety of their crimes and their drive to define themselves outside the constrictions of Victorian life.

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