Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
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Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune

by

When Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist Bill Dedman noticed in 2009 a grand home for sale, unoccupied for nearly sixty years, he stumbled through a surprising portal into American history. Empty Mansions is a rich mystery of wealth and loss, connecting the Gilded Age opulence of the nineteenth century with a twenty-first-century battle over a $300 million inheritance. At its heart is a reclusive heiress named Huguette Clark, a woman so secretive that, at the time of her death at age 104, no new photograph of her had been seen in decades. Though she owned palatial homes in California, New York, and Connecticut, why had she lived for twenty years in a simple hospital room, despite being in excellent health? Why were her valuables being sold off? Was she in control of her fortune, or controlled by those managing her money?
 
Dedman has collaborated with Huguette Clark’s cousin, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., one of the few relatives to have frequent conversations with her. Dedman and Newell tell a fairy tale in reverse: the bright, talented daughter, born into a family of extreme wealth and privilege, who secrets herself away from the outside world.
 
Huguette was the daughter of self-made copper industrialist W. A. Clark, nearly as rich as Rockefeller in his day, a controversial senator, railroad builder, and founder of Las Vegas. She grew up in the largest house in New York City, a remarkable dwelling with 121 rooms for a family of four. She owned paintings by Degas and Renoir, a world-renowned Stradivarius violin, a vast collection of antique dolls. But wanting more than treasures, she devoted her wealth to buying gifts for friends and strangers alike, to quietly pursuing her own work as an artist, and to guarding the privacy she valued above all else.
 
The Clark family story spans nearly all of American history in three generations, from a log cabin in Pennsylvania to mining camps in the Montana gold rush, from backdoor politics in Washington to a distress call from an elegant Fifth Avenue apartment. The same Huguette who was touched by the terror attacks of 9/11 held a ticket nine decades earlier for a first-class stateroom on the second voyage of the Titanic.
 
Empty Mansions reveals a complex portrait of the mysterious Huguette and her intimate circle. We meet her extravagant father, her publicity-shy mother, her star-crossed sister, her French boyfriend, her nurse who received more than $30 million in gifts, and the relatives fighting to inherit Huguette’s copper fortune. Richly illustrated with more than seventy photographs, Empty Mansions is an enthralling story of an eccentric of the highest order, a last jewel of the Gilded Age who lived life on her own terms.

The No. 1 New York Times bestseller. Best nonfiction books of the year at Goodreads, Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble. One of the New York Times critic Janet Maslin's 10 favorite books of 2013.

Title:Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
Edition Language:English
ISBN:0345534522
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:456 pages

    Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune Reviews

  • Kris
    Jul 09, 2013

    Update on September 12, 2013: I just received the hardcover, and the photographs are amazing. Upped my star rating to 5, between the photographs and some other adjustments in the text. Book is now rel...

  • Kathrina
    Oct 06, 2013

    One goodreader calls this Mansion Porn; oh yes. Mansion Porn, Rich People Porn, this book gives you plenty of time to consider how you'd behave so much more appropriately if gifted with $15 million do...

  • Julie
    Jan 04, 2017

    Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr. is a 2013 Ballantine publication. This is one of those books...

  • David Stone
    Aug 31, 2013

    Let me answer the big question first. Yes, there is a lot of new information about Huguette Clark in this book by journalist Dedman and Huguette's cousin Paul Newell. I thought I already knew the whol...

  • Frances
    Aug 16, 2016

    The rich are different, but the super rich are very much in a class of their own and W.A. Clark belonged to the very super rich establishment who always carried two grades of cigars; fine ones for him...

  • Dem
    Sep 06, 2013

    Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman was a fascinating read. This is an extensively well researched and well written accoun...

  • Carol
    Sep 08, 2013

    When I learned that Huguette Clark, the focus of Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune owned on vacant estate in Connecticut, I knew I ha...

  • Nancy Oakes
    Sep 12, 2013

    Empty Mansions is one of those books where you don't get sucked in right away, but once you're there, there's no way you can leave. I have a long review you can read by clicking here, or just stay fo...

  • Glenn Sumi
    Apr 17, 2015

    So What Would You Do With $300 Million?An old woman worth more than $300 million spends her time collecting dolls, watching cartoons and paying the upkeep on cavernous mansions from New York and Conne...

  • Misfit
    Nov 16, 2014

    What a fascinating book, and a big thanks for Barb for reviewing it and bringing it back to my attention. Spotted it on the feeds, library had Kindle edition and I was engrossed as soon as I downloade...