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Customer Review

291 of 315 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Story, But Leaves Reader With Questions, July 21, 2013
This review is from: Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Reclusive millionaire Huguette Clark was a member of the wealthy Clark family copper mining dynasty, born amid mysterious circumstances in 1906 and dying in equally mysterious circumstances in 2011. A few years before her death, she attracted national media attention when it was discovered that she had left huge, luxurious mansions unoccupied for decades, and was secretly living in a spartan hospital room, despite large cash reserves and excellent health.

This book is a psychological detective story that will interest fans of early 20th century American and European art, high society and politics. Other themes include the destructive role of inheritances in wealthy family members' lives, and the difficulty of determining what constitutes mental illness and elder abuse.

Was Huguette Clark simply an eccentric who freely chose to isolate herself from the outside world to devote herself to art and a small circle of friends? Or was she an emotionally disturbed senior citizen hopelessly warped by a lifetime of privilege and subtly abused by her caretakers? Or both? This compelling, well-written story tries to present the evidence in a balanced manner, leaving this reader with unanswered questions.

At her birth, as the child of elderly Senator William Clark's late in life May-December second marriage, there are indications that her youthful mother was still his mistress, and that the couple actually never married. At Huguette's death at the age of 104, her relatives were embroiled in a legal battle with her lawyer, accountant, private nurse and long-term care hospital, all of whom apparently violated professional ethics codes by taking enormous sums of money from the increasingly frail woman during the last two decades of her life.

Co-authors Bill Dedman, a reporter, and Paul Clark Newell, Jr., a relative and family historian, attempt to discover why a beautiful, kind, talented, financially generous woman with substantial professional artistic talent in painting and doll house construction and a scholar of Japanese culture and art, slowly retreated from her relatives, her homes and her Roaring Twenties upper crust party groups to an incredibly isolated existence.

I gave the book four stars instead of five because I felt it was a bit too long -- much of the first quarter of the book is devoted more to Huguette's father, the powerful and somewhat corrupt Senator Clark, than to Huguette herself. I felt the book would have been equally interesting if it had been a bit shorter.
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Showing 1-10 of 44 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 26, 2013 5:09:08 PM PDT
Jill Meyer says:
Excellent review, "DC". I gave it three stars. I didn't think it was as good as you did, plus far too long.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 8, 2013 7:16:04 PM PDT
Dear Jill Meyer:

Thank you! You raise good questions in your review as well!


In reply to an earlier post on Aug 8, 2013 7:26:49 PM PDT
Jill Meyer says:
Thanks, Reader!!!

Posted on Oct 7, 2013 9:35:44 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 7, 2013 9:37:28 PM PDT
My impression was, after reading the book from the beginning to the end of the epilogue, that the reason the lady was a recluse was for the simple reason that she was extremely shy. Once she got to know you (if you were fortunate enough to have passed her first "muster"), you had a loyal (and generous) friend for life. In order to reach her, there were certain keys that had to be turned just so and apparently her nurse (and a few other people) learned, or instinctively knew, how those keys should be turned. Lucky them!

Posted on Feb 15, 2014 6:12:52 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Jun 25, 2014 2:57:53 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 17, 2014 5:46:06 AM PST
Dear Mr. Dedman and fellow commenters:

Mr. Dedman: It was a pleasure to write a good review for a well-researched, interesting, balanced book that dealt with some serious mysteries.

I also appreciate the kind words of my fellow commenters.


Posted on Mar 10, 2014 2:39:51 PM PDT
Yolanda says:
I completely enjoyed this book and your review of it. For me the book was not too long. I like history and was interested in her father and how he made his wealth.

Posted on Apr 5, 2014 8:31:53 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Jun 25, 2014 1:49:34 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 23, 2014 2:41:41 AM PDT
Dear Yolanda and William Dedman:

Yolanda: Glad you liked my review!

William Dedman: thanks for announcing that a film is planned! Please let us know when filming starts and a trailer is available.


Posted on Aug 19, 2014 8:35:38 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 18, 2014 5:14:50 AM PDT
Monica says:
Huguette unfortunately was a very ugly girl. Of course, she was shy. She had a massive too big chin, eyebrows scrunched atop her eyes, a gawkiness. Had she looked like pretty Gloria Vanderbilt her fate might have been quite different. I can't believe some reviewers perhaps trying to be kind say Huguette was pretty. Certainly she felt/knew that all the impoverished European nobility who were out to snare rich American heiresses were only after her for her money. It's sad to mention this, it certainly wasn't Huguette's fault, but I feel it was a major component in her reclusive nigh pathological shyness. Another rich American heiress who was told by her father she was a dog looks-wise, Doris Duke, also had an unpleasant relationship with the opposite sex, who were after her for her money. But she was much better looking than poor Huguette and more adventurous and her father trained her well in business matters. I found Huguette's father fascinating, but poor gawky Huguette predictable and bland.
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