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Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of…
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Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of…

by Bill Dedman, Paul Clark Newell, Jr.

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1,0308212,743 (3.77)62
"When Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bill Dedman noticed a property listing for a grand estate that had been unoccupied for nearly sixty years, he stumbled into one of the most surprising American stories of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Empty Mansions is a rich tale of wealth and loss, complete with copper barons, Gilded Age opulence, and backdoor politics. At its heart is a reclusive 104-year-old heiress named Huguette Clark. Dedman has collaborated with Huguette's cousin, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., one of the few relatives to have had frequent conversations with her, to tell a fairy tale in reverse: the bright, talented daughter who is born into an almost royal family of amazing wealth and privilege, yet who secrets herself away from the outside world. Empty Mansions reveals a complete picture of the enigmatic Huguette Clark, heiress to one of the greatest fortunes in American history, a woman who had not been photographed in public since the 1920s. Though she owned three palatial homes in California, New York, and Connecticut, they sat vacant while she lived out her final two decades in a New York City hospital room, despite being in excellent health. Her father was self-made copper industrialist W. A. Clark, who at the dawn of the twentieth century was one of the richest men in America. Huguette's inheritance afforded her untold luxury: gorgeous paintings by Degas and Renoir, a world-renowned Stradivarius violin, a vast collection of antique dolls, lavish gifts for her friends, the freedom to pursue her own work as an artist, and, most important, the privacy she valued above all else. The Clark family story takes the reader nearly the entire span of American history in just three generations. The same Huguette who held a ticket for the return trip of the Titanic was touched by the terror attacks of 9/11. In this scrupulously detailed account, we meet Huguette's extravagant father, her publicity-shy mother, her star-crossed sister, her noble French boyfriend, the nurse who received more than $30 million in gifts, and the relatives seeking to inherit Huguette's $300 million fortune. Richly illustrated with more than seventy photographs, some never before seen, Empty Mansions is a touching story of an eccentric of the highest order, a last jewel of the Gilded Age who lived life on her own terms"--… (more)
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» See also 62 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 84 (next | show all)
I am sure that there are many people who would enjoy this book. It seemed well-written. However, it was not something I found interesting for me personally.

For some odd reason, I had thought this was going to be more historic than it was. I could not get through the first chapter without a feeling of intruding in the life of someone who clearly wanted to be left alone. It seems like a scrutinization of the way other people live, and I detest that kind of violation of privacy.
( )
  slmr4242 | Oct 16, 2019 |
I found Huguette's father's story interesting. I suppose that's because he did so much to build his fortune. Unfortunately, Huguette was a recluse, so her story, although interesting at times, was mostly boring. There is a story here; I'd recommend skimming parts of it and reading other parts in detail. ( )
  Beth.Clarke | Jun 28, 2019 |
Sad. ( )
  cygnet81 | Feb 18, 2019 |
Huguette Clark's father made millions in mining and railroad ventures in the Gilded Age, but his daughter Huguette lived out much of her life as a recluse, spending the last decades in a hospital room, even though she was perfectly healthy.

As a peek into the life of the super-rich, it is staggering. From her father's Park Avenue mansion (26 bedrooms, 31 bathrooms and five art galleries for a family of four -- plus staff, of course) to Huguette's determination to reproduce her late mother's bedroom in another apartment while leaving the originals in an unoccupied one -- the curtain is drawn back on people who spend unthinkable sums to gratify their whims. But at the same time, Huguette Clark is shown as a loving and generous patron, not only of the arts, but to family and friends. She was lavish in her financial gifts to them, but utterly parsimonious with her time and physical presence.

The book outlines what is known of her life, most drawn from the voluminous correspondence she left behind, but never really speculates as to why she became so reclusive in her later years or why she spent the last 20 years of her life in a hospital room when she was fully recovered from the health emergency that sent her there.

Fascinating reading about an ultimately unknowable character. ( )
  LyndaInOregon | Feb 8, 2019 |
I remembered hearing about Huguette Clark in the news and when I saw this book I wanted to read it to find out more about the story. It is a fascinating story. I listened to the audio and enjoyed hearing the actual audio of the phone conversations. Since I went to college in Santa Barbara I am interested in finding out more about the Clarks home in that area and the influence they had. I will follow up to learn more! ( )
  carolfoisset | Dec 29, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dedman, Billprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Clark Newell, Paul, Jr.main authorall editionsconfirmed
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We came to this story by separate paths, one of us by accident and one by birth.
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