- Paperback: 512 pages
- Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (April 22, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780345534538
- ISBN-13: 978-0345534538
- ASIN: 0345534530
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.2 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2,601 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune Paperback – April 22, 2014
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“An amazing story of profligate wealth . . . an outsized tale of rags-to-riches prosperity.”—The New York Times
“A fascinating investigation into the haunting true-life tale of reclusive heiress Huguette Clark.”—People
“An exhaustively researched, well-written account . . . a blood-boiling expose [that] will make you angry and will make you sad.”—The Seattle Times
“An evocative and rollicking read, part social history, part hothouse mystery, part grand guignol.”—The Daily Beast
“A childlike, self-exiled eccentric, [Huguette Clark] is the sort of of subject susceptible to a biography of broad strokes, which makes Empty Mansions, the first full-length account of her life, impressive for its delicacy and depth.”—Town & Country
“One of those incredible stories that you didn’t even know existed. It filled a void.”—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show
“So well written . . . such a gripping, gripping story.”—Bill Goldstein, NBC 4 New York
“A compelling account of what happened to the Clark family and its fortune . . . a tremendous feat.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“A fascinating story.”—Today
“Meticulous and absorbing.”—Bloomberg Businessweek
“Brilliantly researched, tough-minded, and fair . . . a fascinating read.”—Santa Barbara Independent
“Riveting . . . deliciously scandalous . . . a thrilling study of the responsibilities and privileges that come with great wealth.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A spellbinding mystery.”—Booklist
“Empty Mansions is a dazzlement and a wonder. Bill Dedman and Paul Newell unravel a great character, Huguette Clark, a shy soul akin to Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird—if Boo’s father had been as rich as Rockefeller. This is an enchanting journey into the mysteries of the mind, a true-to-life exploration of strangeness and delight.”—Pat Conroy, author of The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son
“Empty Mansions is at once an engrossing portrait of a forgotten American heiress and a fascinating meditation on the crosswinds of extreme wealth. Hugely entertaining and well researched, Empty Mansions is a fabulous read.”—Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire
“In Empty Mansions, a unique American character emerges from the shadows. Through deep research and evocative writing, Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr., have expertly captured the arc of history covered by the remarkable Clark family, while solving a deeply personal mystery of wealth and eccentricity.”—Jon Meacham, author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
“Who knew? Though virtually unknown today, W. A. Clark was one of the fifty richest Americans ever—copper baron, railroad builder, art collector, U.S. senator, and world-class scoundrel. Yet his daughter and heiress Huguette became a bizarre recluse. Empty Mansions reveals this mysterious family in sumptuous detail.”—John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
“Empty Mansions is a mesmerizing tale that delivers all the ingredients of a top-notch mystery novel. But there is nothing fictional about this true, fully researched story of a fascinating and reclusive woman from an era of fabulous American wealth. Empty Mansions is a delicious read—once you start it, you will find it hard to put down.”—Kate Alcott, bestselling author of The Dressmaker
“More than a biography, more than a mystery, Empty Mansions is a real-life American Bleak House, an arresting tale about misplaced souls sketched on a canvas that stretches from coast to coast, from riotous mining camps to the gilded dwellings of the very, very rich.”—John A. Farrell, author of Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Bill Dedman introduced the public to heiress Huguette Clark and her empty mansions through his compelling series of narratives for NBC, which became the most popular feature in the history of its news website, topping 110 million page views. He received the 1989 Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting while writing for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe.
Paul Clark Newell, Jr., a cousin of Huguette Clark, has researched the Clark family history for twenty years, sharing many conversations with Huguette about her life and family. He received a rare private tour of Bellosguardo, her mysterious estate overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara.
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EMPTY MANSIONS is several stories in one. The first is that of Huguette's father, the ambitious W.A. Clark, who took himself on a classic American adventure from nothing to extreme wealth. His story is also the story of the American West, of the mining industry, and railroads. Once comfortable financially, Clark displayed his wealth in rather ostentatious manners such as the building of the Clark mansion in New York City, an intriguing but rather short-lived folly.
The second story within the book is really the story of Huguette's mother, Anna. As W.A. Clark's second wife, she bore him two children, but never had the status or respect in society that she may have desired. Anna seemingly lived for her daughters and when the elder one, Andree, died, she and Huguette became inseparable. During this period, however, the two did make use of their wealth through traveling, collecting art, and buying and furnishing houses. For those interested in symbiotic relationships between mothers and daughters, EMPTY MANSIONS will definitely provide interesting, thought provoking reading. For readers who liked THE SECRET LIFE OF THE LONELY DOLL by Jean Nathan, the story of author Dare Wright and her mother, Huguette's life might prove similarly intriguing; the difference, of course, being that Dare Wright was creative while Huguette was . . . .well, Huguette.
The third story in EMPTY MANSIONS is the story of the hard-to-understand Huguette and an outline of the last twenty years of her life. Suffering from skin cancer, she hid inside her grand New York apartment and put off going to the doctor's. When she finally called for one, she was admitted to the hospital and then, most curiously, never left. At the time she entered the hospital, Huguette had two very large New York apartments, a huge mansion on the coast of California, and a spacious country estate in Connecticut. There was plenty of money for Huguette to live as she pleased or to donate to charities she deemed worthy. After having her cancer treated and being proclaimed healthy, Huguette chose to remain in the hospital and live there for two decades until she died at age 104. The last section of EMPTY MANSIONS changes in tone a bit as the reader is thrust into the present day and reads about court cases still going on in 2013. All of the sensational newspaper headlines of the past few years telling the story of Huguette Clark flash by, page after page, as the reader puzzles over the ethics of doctors and nurses accepting large monetary presents from their patient and of accountants and lawyers whose roles in Huguette's affairs may have been questionable.
But above all, whatever else EMPTY MANSIONS is about, it leaves the reader pondering whether Huguette was merely sheltered and shy or whether she was emotionally immature or suffered from a mental illness. It does appear that her life would have been quite different if her mother had lived longer, if her sister hadn't died, or if she had a mother figure in her life to guide and direct her. As it turns out, her nurse, Hadassah Peri, may have emerged as just that figure. All that makes the story of Huguette and her money a most captivating read.
EMPTY MANSIONS is the perfect book for a long weekend at the seashore in the rain, for a few days snowbound in the mountains in a snug, warm cabin in winter, or for taking along on a cruise. No one will regret reading EMPTY MANSIONS as there is something to be learned about American history, wealth, and yes - about loneliness.
Then there was Huguette. What I found sad was the way the hospital hit her up for cash, yet made fun of her eccentricity. By all accounts, she was a kind person. She may have been eccentric, yet she did not abuse anyone who came in to contact with her, and by all accounts, she did provide for those she cared about.
Empty Mansions does raise questions on ethics, whether it be the lawyer, accountant, the hospital... Even her own relatives who challenged her will. I was glad to see an investigation to determine whether elder abuse had occurred—under the circumstances, it makes complete sense. That said, I was angered by the greed of her family... If one can use that term at all.
In the end, while we never receive concrete answers about how/why Ms. Clark was so isolated, it's almost beside the point. Perhaps most fascinating is this one woman outliving her family by an extraordinary number of years. At nearly 105 at the time of her death, she saw more of history than most people. While I'd have loved to see a diary or journal of some kind to possibly understand Huguette's mindset, as an artist myself, the mystery is also part of the beauty. Nothing is necessarily clean & wrapped in a bow. We can choose to interpret the words on the page in multiple ways. I can't help but imagine that although her privacy was violated following her death, in the end, her story is that of an artist, through & through. Much is still left to the imagination, a world we may create. Perhaps that is the true gift the authors deliver to the readers, as well as Huguette in the end.
Yes, she was very generous to those she cared about, and to some charitable causes. However, she could have done so much, to better the world, with the millions she gave to her private nurse, doctors who were, IMO, taking advantage of Huguette's fears, and eccentricities.
At the end of reading, I don't feel sad for Huguette. She isolated herself so that she didn't have to deal with anything that might make her feel uncomfortable or sad. She only wanted to think about things that were beautiful, things that made her happy to do. In that sense, she seemed selfish and immature.
I think that Huguette Clark's life disproves the adage that, "Money can't buy happiness." I believe that she was absolutely content with the restricted world she created, no matter how stunted it was. I did not find myself admiring Huguette, despite her generosity to those with whom she was loyal.