This review was originally posted at Goodreads and imported here later on with next to no spell/grammar checking.
For some reason, I thought From Hell was something either related to or similar to the Swamp Thing. A big honking monster (possibly from the eponymous hell) doing stuff. I had no idea what I was getting into here other than it being an Alan Moore book and by all accounts a really really good one.
In other words, I had no idea this was a Jack the Ripper story and the title is a reference to one of the famous letters the murderer allegedly sent. The only thing I knew about the story was the name and that some prostitutes were murdered.
The place Whitechapel had no meaning to me, nor its connection to the crimes. The names "Leather Apron", George Lusk, Donald Swanson, Mary Jane Kelly or any of the other people implicated after the fact (William Gull, Walter Sickert) rang no bells either.
Flouting my ignorance further, I know next to nothing about Freemasonry, any of the lore, conspiracies or how it could possibly relate to the above.
So while reading it, I was deeply confused by all the names, places, events and characters from the beginning pretty much to the end.
This book aims to be a comprehensive and consistent (but not true!) telling of the events and a lot of research has gone into making it. Sadly, that made it really complex and I kept forgetting who everyone was and what they did and what happened to them.
It is a story of conspiracies and politics with grim people I struggled to empathise with.
Finishing the book took me a long time (which made all the complexity even more difficult) and it was honestly a bit of a slog. Surprisingly, the ending has intrigued me greatly as has the appendix. It documented Alan Moore’s thinking and view of the whole case and its constant retelling and investigation and went through all the claims made in the book pointing out which are a documented fact, which are plausible connections and which are pure fiction.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of it.
The book reminds me a bit of Mists of Avalon which I loved as a different take on the Arthurian legend. Except there, I knew about the story, was familiar with the broad events and characters and really fell in love with Bradley’s interpretation.
Intellectually, I think From Hell is a fantastic and really well researched book. But it didn’t work for me.