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

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When Pulitzer Prize–winning 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 it When Pulitzer Prize–winning 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.


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When Pulitzer Prize–winning 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 it When Pulitzer Prize–winning 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.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    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 released! ---------------------------------------- Huguette Clark was born to nearly unimaginable wealth and privilege. Her father, William A. Clark, was a copper baron who made several fortunes, particularly in mining and railroads, booming industries during America's Gilded Age. At the time of his dea 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 released! ---------------------------------------- Huguette Clark was born to nearly unimaginable wealth and privilege. Her father, William A. Clark, was a copper baron who made several fortunes, particularly in mining and railroads, booming industries during America's Gilded Age. At the time of his death in 1925, he had a huge fortune to leave to his heirs, including his youngest child, Huguette Marcelle Clark. Huguette married once, but got divorced after approximately a year. She then turned to a very private life, far from the social whirl of New York's elite. Over time, fewer and fewer people heard from her, and hardly anyone saw her. She lived in a grand apartment on New York's Fifth Ave., with her mother, an extremely valuable art collection, as well as her beloved collection of dolls, miniature houses, and Stradivarius violins. She owned extensive properties, including a mansion with an estate in New Canaan, CT that she never lived in or furnished, and a grand mansion and grounds in Santa Barbara, CA. Bellosguardo's staff were ordered to keep the estate as close to its original condition as possible, although Huguette hadn't visited in decades. These extensive properties caught the attention of Bill Dedman, a Pulitzer-prize winning investigative journalist. When looking for his own house, he played a game many of us have -- he started to look at properties that were hopelessly out of his price range. This led him to Huguette Clark, and her empty mansions, and a mystery-- was she still alive? What was her life like? Why were these estates left empty? In this enthralling book, Bill Dedman provides us with the answers he discovered when on his quest to learn about the reclusive Huguette Clark. He joins with one of Clark's relatives, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., who had a series of phone conversations with Huguette over a 9-year period, beginning in 1995. Newell's personal stories about his conversations with Huguette help a flesh-and-blood person to emerge from the mystery, while Dedman's training as an investigative journalist stands him in good stead, as he slowly unravels the history of W.A. Clark, Huguette Clark, and the battle over the fortune she left behind when she died on the morning of May 24, 2011, at the age of 104. Huguette Clark (right) c. 1917 (age approximately 11) with her sister Andrée (left) and her father William A. Clark (center) The first part of Empty Mansions presents William A. Clark's life combined with a history of the United States, particularly from the end of the Civil War through the mid-1920s. Dedman strikes a balance between biography and history, providing details of Clark's successful career as an entrepreneur (and more scandalous career in politics), while also provided context regarding the economic history of the time. I must admit to my eyes glazing over when I read some passages about the Clarks' incredible wealth, particularly descriptions of a New York mansion (since demolished) that took decadence to a new level. Still, there are human elements to balance out these lists of possessions and furnishings, particularly regarding the sad fate of Huguette's older sister, Andrée. Dedman and Newell have a wealth of source material concerning W. A. Clark, but after Huguette's divorce, she practically falls out of the historical record. She kept more and more to herself, enjoying her mother's company, occupying herself for a time with her painting, and for longer with her collection of dolls and her research into Japanese culture. She had enough wealth to keep the world away, if that was what she wanted, so she turned her New York apartments into fortresses, and collected around her a very small group of people whom she trusted. Her reclusiveness increased even more after her mother's death in 1963. As Dedman and Newell delve into Huguette's more recent history, they consider some disturbing questions. Were her legal and financial advisors taking advantage of her? What kind of mental health was she in? Were her reclusiveness and obsession with dolls simply aspects of her eccentricity, or symptoms of mental illness? Was she responsible to make her own financial decisions? (view spoiler)[When they discovered she had been living in a NY hospital for 20 years, they wondered why she had never been discharged. Were the medical staff and her personal nurse using their influence with her to get rich from her gifts to them? (hide spoiler)] The final chapters of the book consider a battle that broke out between the beneficiaries of her will and her family members. What, in a case like this, is the appropriate way to safeguard Huguette's fortune and protect her legacy? I found Empty Mansions to be an enthralling read -- disturbing in sections, very sad in others, but always intriguing and thought-provoking. I especially appreciated Dedman and Newell's commitment to be respectful of Huguette. A book that could have felt sensationalist instead was thought-provoking and humane. I read Empty Mansions as an ARC from Netgalley, and I liked it so much that I pre-ordered it when it comes out on September 10, 2013 from Ballantine. I know I will want to revisit Huguette's story.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    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 I discovered through a Goodreads friend, and thankfully one of my local libraries was able to provide me with a digital copy and another one had it on audio, so I listened to parts of the book and read the other parts, which made this a unique experience. The author describes how he first came acro 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 I discovered through a Goodreads friend, and thankfully one of my local libraries was able to provide me with a digital copy and another one had it on audio, so I listened to parts of the book and read the other parts, which made this a unique experience. The author describes how he first came across the story of the Clark family’s empty mansions and I can see why this story and the mystery surrounding it would appeal to anyone, but for a journalist the urge to investigate was nearly impossible to ignore. The book got off to a slow start for me, as the author went through the family background explaining how the Clark's accumulated their vast fortune. But then the book began to read like an episode of “American Castles’ and I got caught up the descriptions of opulence, and the blueprints of the main properties owned by W.A. Clark. The designs, the furnishings, the grounds and the various collections of art and books, china and countless other investments were mind boggling. I then found myself wrapped up in W. A. Clark’s rather colorful personal life, his bid for the senate, various scandals he found himself embroiled in, and of course his family life. All of this is quite interesting, but then the second half of the book begins to focus exclusively on Huguette Clark, W.A.’s daughter, who eventually inherited the family fortune. Huguette Clark was an odd duck, surely suffering from some form of mental illness, such as agoraphobia. Which is why she spent the last part of her life in a hospital room instead of living in any of the incredible properties she owned. Still, she insisted that the properties were maintained, although the caretakers never met her in person. She maintained an incredible collection of dolls, one that kept her rapt attention well into her later years, which added to her eccentric persona. But, once she shut herself off from the world, allowing people access to her funds, and realizing her penchant for giving away large sums of money to people, namely people who cared for her during her long hospital stay, it made her quite vulnerable. She was taken advantage of by many people and institutions, until her fortune began to dwindle and was put at risk. Yet, despite her overly generous nature, her oddness, and mental illnesses, she was physically well, and I think maybe she controlled her life the best way she knew how, unable to trust certain people or capable of coping with the demands and pressures of such a large fortune and the obligations typically attached to it. She may very well have done with her money, exactly what she wished to, although some took advantage of her in a terrible way. Sadly, her family contested her wills, with a three hundred million dollar bounty on the line, but one had to wonder if maybe Huguette’s mind was sound and she left what was left of her fortune to the people and causes she wanted. I was conflicted about the will, but felt that most of it should have been left as it was, although the nurse Huguette seemed so fond of, was not my favorite, but then neither were the relatives who came crawling out of the woodwork after her death. . This is a fascinating historical novel, highlighting a family whose wealth rivaled the Rockefeller's but whose name faded into obscurity. It’s a shame the mansions were left unoccupied for so many years, and it’s so sad that Huguette didn’t do more with her life. Her story is a kind of cautionary tale, warning that money does not buy happiness or contentment. This book has been researched thoroughly and gives us an intimate look at the Clark family and their history. The audio version includes some actual voice mail recordings and the book provides a few interior photos the mansions. I felt like this book was a nice mix of history and family saga, rich in historical details, sweeping the reader up into the gilded age, which is a period of history I find endlessly fascinating. Although the book ends before the settlement was reached with the family, you can look up the Clark family on the internet to learn what eventually happened to the long vacant properties. Despite the rough start, I ended up losing myself in this book and it has wetted my appetite for more information on the family and the amazing collections and homes they built. 4 stars

  3. 4 out of 5

    Frances

    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 himself and lesser ones to give away. A farm boy born in a log cabin in 1839, his rise to a powerful, wealthy business man and U.S. senator is astonishing. By 1895 he owned the most expensive 121-room mansion in New York on Fifth Avenue, and once completed it was more expensive than Rockefeller and Car 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 himself and lesser ones to give away. A farm boy born in a log cabin in 1839, his rise to a powerful, wealthy business man and U.S. senator is astonishing. By 1895 he owned the most expensive 121-room mansion in New York on Fifth Avenue, and once completed it was more expensive than Rockefeller and Carnegie’s homes combined. Filled with fine furniture, 17 servants, twenty-six bedrooms, thirty-one bathrooms, the six-story mansion was well known for the Salon room. This special room held carved and gilded wood panels made in 1770 brought over intact from Paris, along with a gilded clock from Marie Antoinette’s boudoir while she watched the hands tick by waiting for the guillotine. Approximately one-third of the book is devoted to W.A. Clark and his accomplishments which are well worth reading alone. The remaining chapters examines the life of his youngest daughter Huguette Clark who inherited a 1/5 share of her father’s estate with the rest left to his other four children. This part is quite fascinating as Huguette spends and spends millions on frivolous items and gives away still more millions to people she meets over the years. Empty Mansions will keep the reader enthralled and well entertained with the lives of the super wealthy. Highly recommended to all readers.

  4. 5 out of 5

    David Stone

    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 whole story about the woman with three of the most expensive homes in America who didn't visit them for decades, instead choosing to live in a small hospital room, even though she was healthy. But Huguette leaps out of these pages like no other recluse since Edie Beale. She ought to do for wearing six l 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 whole story about the woman with three of the most expensive homes in America who didn't visit them for decades, instead choosing to live in a small hospital room, even though she was healthy. But Huguette leaps out of these pages like no other recluse since Edie Beale. She ought to do for wearing six layers of Scottish cashmere sweaters over a hospital gown what Little Edie did for statement scarves. The difference is that Huguette died with $400 million, while Edie's Grey Gardens went to the cats. Most surprising to me was to learn about Huguette's talent and vocation as a painter and I, for one, am very envious of the collector who picked up her portrait of a geisha for $104 on eBay in 2010. One small detail that I loved was that in the home Huguette bought in New Canaan (and never slept in once) she built an addition (a painting studio above her bedroom), with the balusters of the staircase leading up to it carved to look like paintbrushes. Even her much derided passion for dolls and dollhouses was part of a lifelong art project and one that, even in her final years, she devoted incredible time and connoisseurship to, corresponding with artists around the world and petitioning the Emperor of Japan to use a special protected wood. As someone who lives near Newport, Rhode Island, where the Gilded Age still sits astride the present, I was fascinated to read how Senator Clark amassed his fortune and how he chose to spend it. His daughter Huguette, born in 1906, came close to perishing on The Titanic and survived 9/11, which gives you a sense of the depth of her life story. Everything that seemed ridiculous and sad about this woman in the news reports about her "discovery" and alleged neglect seems, after reading this book, understandable and even laudable. She had love of every kind in her life, gave away millions at a whim, and preserved her apartments and homes for ghosts, yet still died with her capital intact making numerous savvy business decisions and art investments completely on her own. Each of those decisions yielded immense profits. Somewhere, Huguette is having the last laugh with one of her dolls. Note: I received an advance reader's copy of this book from the publisher.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kathrina

    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 dollars, if only some rich old woman would give you the chance to prove it. Too much money makes everyone look suspicious, and some of them deserve a closer look. The accountant is a skank, for sure, the nurse, a kind, benevolent, naive exploiter of the first degree, poisoned by unreasonable charity, 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 dollars, if only some rich old woman would give you the chance to prove it. Too much money makes everyone look suspicious, and some of them deserve a closer look. The accountant is a skank, for sure, the nurse, a kind, benevolent, naive exploiter of the first degree, poisoned by unreasonable charity, and Hughette herself? Eccentric? Autistic? Batshit crazy? Hollywood is sure to buy the rights to this one, and I can't wait to see Helena Bonham Carter combing a doll's hair in her hospital gown and six layers of cashmere sweater. On top of all this sensational rich-people drama, we're also treated to a focused perspective of America's industrial age. The author only lightly introduces the copper magnate's impact on our current environmental crisis -- how enormous wealth piled up so quickly, before we realized the real price paid for mining our natural resources. Does buying a camp for girl scouts also buy forgiveness? Do we, the readers, have any right to judge how a rich person spends their money? Can we judge the ethics of how they earned it? Wouldn't we jump at the chance to make all of their mistakes? This book was riveting from start to finish. And, in fact, the story continues in real time. The last chapter was written in July, only 3 months ago, and the case was finally settled just weeks ago. There are more stories to be discovered and explored -- for instance, an heir to $6 million dollars of Hughette's fortune, found dead of exposure under a highway viaduct, with a $500,000 uncashed check in his pocket. How about a reality show of Hadassah and her spoiled family, who lost their Bentley in Hurricane Sandy? Times are tough, eh? I'd even love an historical docudrama of Hughette's cousin's wife and Mrs. Astor, floating around, waiting for rescue while the Titanic sank with their husbands aboard. Never a dull moment when you've got Monet and Cezanne hanging on your bedroom wall, and 2 million dollars worth of dolls to curate and drink tea with.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Arah-Lynda

    Why are we all so fascinated with how the wealthy live their lives? This is the story of Huguette Clark, youngest daughter of W.A. Clarke who made his fortune in copper and other entrepreneurial ventures. Huguette was born into a life of wealth, opulence and privilege. It was all she had ever known. Her father’s mansion in New York City, completed in 1911, was considered the most expensive in America. She was intelligent, talented and devoted to her art, in all its many forms, as well as kind an Why are we all so fascinated with how the wealthy live their lives? This is the story of Huguette Clark, youngest daughter of W.A. Clarke who made his fortune in copper and other entrepreneurial ventures. Huguette was born into a life of wealth, opulence and privilege. It was all she had ever known. Her father’s mansion in New York City, completed in 1911, was considered the most expensive in America. She was intelligent, talented and devoted to her art, in all its many forms, as well as kind and generous. She also chose to live her life, alone and in private, hidden from the public eye and interacting only occasionally with a very small inner circle. I can identify to a point with Huguette’s desire to maintain a private life, then again circumstance fueled my need to get out there, interact and earn a living. Not to mention children. What if I, like Huguette, never had to concern myself with such obligations and sundry notions? We are all of us touched by a different brush. Still, I cannot help but think that Huguette may have benefited large from a true friend. Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune provides a glimpse into the life of one of America’s most enigmatic, multi millionaires and all her properties and prized possessions. Lovely photographs. For me a somewhat sad but compelling story.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Diana | Book of Secrets

    EMPTY MANSIONS is my first audiobook of 2018. (The plan is to dedicate most of my audiobook listening to nonfiction this year. We'll see how it goes!) Abandoned places are fascinating to me. While the mansions in this book weren't abandoned entirely (there were caretakers on-site), the eccentric owner - Huguette Clark - hadn't lived in them or seen them in decades. In fact, she spent her last 20 years living unnecessarily in hospital rooms, until her death in 2011 at age 104. The first part of t EMPTY MANSIONS is my first audiobook of 2018. (The plan is to dedicate most of my audiobook listening to nonfiction this year. We'll see how it goes!) Abandoned places are fascinating to me. While the mansions in this book weren't abandoned entirely (there were caretakers on-site), the eccentric owner - Huguette Clark - hadn't lived in them or seen them in decades. In fact, she spent her last 20 years living unnecessarily in hospital rooms, until her death in 2011 at age 104. The first part of the book was all about Huguette's father, W. A. Clark, who amassed a great fortune in copper mines and railroads during the late 1800s. Mr. Clark had quite an exciting life, going from a humble Pennsylvania farm boy to an extremely wealthy industrialist with a passion for art and the finest things money could buy. When he died in 1925, his fortune was split equally between Huguette and her four older half-siblings. The rest of the book focused on Huguette and the ways she spent her inheritance. She was an unusual person, private to a fault, and very generous to people and causes close to her heart. She seemed happiest when she was hidden away from the world, among her art and her dollhouses. As she got older, I think there were some who took advantage of her generosity. She gave away millions and millions, but was she manipulated by those few who were close to her? Conflicting wills written close together bring her mental state into question. EMPTY MANSIONS is a well-researched blend of American History, biography, and family drama. The audiobook was performed by Kimberly Farr, and she did a fantastic job keeping me engaged in Huguette's story. It also contained snippets of phone conversations between Huguette and her cousin, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., one of the co-authors of this book. Overall, I enjoyed EMPTY MANSIONS, though given how insanely private Huguette Clark was during her life, I think she would cringe knowing this book is out there.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dem

    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 account of a forgotten American Heiress and her father W.A Clark. Having recently watched the series on TV "The Men who Build America" ( Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Morgan) I was delighted when I received this book on W.A Clark and his family who were major players in copper mining and other ind 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 account of a forgotten American Heiress and her father W.A Clark. Having recently watched the series on TV "The Men who Build America" ( Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Morgan) I was delighted when I received this book on W.A Clark and his family who were major players in copper mining and other industries during the 1880s to 1930s. I really enjoy books of this nature and Empty Mansions proved to be right up my street. When the author noticed in 2009 a mansion for sale which was unoccupied for nearly sixty years he became curious and he did some research and found a surprising portal into American History. This book is a fascinating account of mystery, wealth, loss and finally to a twenty first century battle over an estate worth $300 Million. Huguette Clark is the lonely reclusive figure at the heart of this story who lived as a reclusive figure in a hospital room in New York for 30 years until her death in 2011. I loved everything about this book, the historical account of W. A Clark and the building of his empire was so interesting and very well researched. I loved the photographs in the book and found myself stopping throughout this book to Google places and stories. I was sad and at times aghast at the wealth and opulence of the Clark Family. I was shocked at the vast sums of money Huguette paid out to hospitals, carers and friends in order to live the life of privacy that she chooses. Huguette's story is a bizarre but fascinating one and I really enjoyed this book from start to finish. Thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for the opportunity to read this book in return for an unbiased review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    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 had to read this investigative work. Being in a non-fiction book group gave me the perfect excuse to indulge. My review is going to be a bit convoluted. That is how I felt when I finished Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune. All I could th 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 had to read this investigative work. Being in a non-fiction book group gave me the perfect excuse to indulge. My review is going to be a bit convoluted. That is how I felt when I finished Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune. All I could think of, and I have plenty of company in this, is what? At the age of Huguette, ill and emaciated was taken from her apartment to the hospital. Suffering from cancer and poor nutrition she amazingly made a full recovery and went on to live to the age of 104, just shy of her 105th birthday. But she never returned home. Home became the hospital room. Huguette Clark owned 2 empty mansions, one in Connecticut (my home state) and one in Santa Barbara in which she never lived. It was the one in Connecticut that sent journalist Bill Dedman on the quest to find answers about this mysterious woman. Dedman was looking for a house in Connecticut, not having much luck when he decided, as a lark, to just view the most expensive homes available in what he describes as tony, New Caanan. He quickly learns that the $35 million dollar estate owned by Clark is empty and more strangely, has never been lived in. In addition to Le Beau Chateau in New Cannan, she owns Bellosquardo in California three apartments on Millionaire Row in NYC. She inhabited one apartment until the early 90’s when she was in her 80’s but spent her remaining years in that plain hospital room. Did I mention she was wealthy and could have lived anywhere of her choice? Bill Dedman tells what he learned in an investigation of Huguette Clark’s life, not from personal interviews but from thousands of documents. First hand material is provided by the co-author, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., a cousin of Ms. Clark’s who did have phone conversations with her. I cannot wrap myself around the numbers representing the money talked about in this book. I can’t imagine the wealth, the art, the jewelry, the doll collection or the detailed dollhouses that Huguette had built or purchased. I can’t imagine the money she spent or the money she gave away, including millions to her private duty nurse Hadassah Peri. I can’t imagine living in a fairly barren hospital room when you own not one, but three opulent homes and could have lived in any of them with round the clock servants and medical assistance. My head was actually spinning by the time I finished reading this book. As much is missing in her story as what is told. I don’t think I can blame Dedman, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist for this omission. He reported and wrote what he could verify without ever having contact with the reclusive Clark. Is a much a story of Huguette’s copper baron father, W.A. Clark as it is Huguette Clarks. Makes sense as Huguette’s fortune was inherited from W.A. When I asked my book group what one word they would use to describe Huguette they did not say reclusive, weird, or crazy as might be expected but tragic, vulnerable and the medical term agoraphobic. She was all of these and more. If you follow my reviews you’ll know that this is the kind of piece that sends me researching topics mentioned. Some places I visited on the web. Felix Lorioux’s art The Gilded Age The Color of Money, Bill Dedman’s Pulitzer Prize Winning articles Bill Dedman’s website for the book where you can see pictures of the empty mansions as well as some possessions of the late Huguette Clark. Settlement of Huguette Clark’s will Huguette Clark’s Obituary in the New York Times, May 24, 211 Huguette Marcelle Clark burial record at Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx. Fascinating story even though many questions about Huguette Clark are never answered.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    A fascinating story offering a glimpse into a world of opulence that originated with a man pursuing the American dream and culminating in a woman’s need to hide herself from the world and its sorrows. In that, it felt as if there were two stories, one a historical account, the other a psychological drama. I was rather surprised at how much I enjoyed the book and I developed a deep affection for the woman at its center, to an extent that it is hard to separate the critique of the book from the wo A fascinating story offering a glimpse into a world of opulence that originated with a man pursuing the American dream and culminating in a woman’s need to hide herself from the world and its sorrows. In that, it felt as if there were two stories, one a historical account, the other a psychological drama. I was rather surprised at how much I enjoyed the book and I developed a deep affection for the woman at its center, to an extent that it is hard to separate the critique of the book from the woman. Of the former I will say it was an engaging read, the story moved along at a good pace and the genesis of W.A. Clark’s fortune and that of the Gilded Age was clearly depicted. The authors maintain impartiality, they don’t write of heroes or villains, there are no verdicts, they simply show the complexity of human beings and weave a good tale. And while some will complain that there were too many mentions of possessions and excesses, I will argue that it was necessary to paint a detailed picture of this world. It also provided the counter point to the rest of the story which was in stark contrast to how Huguette would spend her waning years. Of the woman, I was struck by how child-like she seemed, yet also intelligent and strong, who cherished privacy above all else and lived life on her own terms. It was easy to see that this shy little girl who lost loved ones at an early age and led a cloistered life with an equally introverted mother, found the world too much to endure. Her artistic nature and vivid imagination found solace in creating doll houses, little environments she could create and control, little worlds within her world. It is not surprising that she reveled in the details, achieving perfection in a way that eluded her in an imperfect world. My heart broke throughout the reading and even weeks later I am still haunted by her story. I do not care to judge this woman as so many have nor to diagnose disorders from a distance, eccentricity can be broadly defined and the peculiarities of a life defy categorization. I only care to think about the gentle artist that found a way to fashion a life that worked for her, perhaps not in a prescribed or accepted way, but in a way that provided the safety she sought and the anonymity her circumstances would not allow. Most poignant of all was her recitation of a beloved fable, Le Grillon (The Cricket), which concludes…to live happily, live hidden.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    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 for the shorter version. Either way, right up front I'll say that you probably haven't read another book like this one. Empty Mansions is a book that proves the old axiom that sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction, and, I would add, just as captivating. The centerpiece of this book is Huguet 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 for the shorter version. Either way, right up front I'll say that you probably haven't read another book like this one. Empty Mansions is a book that proves the old axiom that sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction, and, I would add, just as captivating. The centerpiece of this book is Huguette Clark, a privileged, incredibly wealthy woman who chose to live her life happily by staying hidden. Huguette's story may seem to some to be the stuff of madness, but the the authors disagree, calling her a "modern-day 'Boo' Radley," someone who shut herself away in order to remain "safe from a world that can hurt." Huguette died in 2011, at the age of 104, two weeks shy of 105, but her death isn't the end of this story. Empty Mansions takes you from the wide Montana prairies to the smaller world of the privileged elite; from a beautiful mansion topped with a golden tower on Millionaire's Row in New York City to a hospital room next to a janitor's closet in this strange but well-told and thoroughly-researched story. The book takes the reader through the life of W.A. Clark, former senator from Montana and self-made multimillionaire known as the "copper king," and his family -- his wife Anna La Chapelle, daughters Huguette and older sister Andrée. Clark had other older children from a previous marriage, but lived with his second family on New York City's Millionaire's Row in a six-story mansion at Fifth Avenue and Seventy-seventh street. The sisters grew up in opulence and lived privileged lives, all before tragedy struck with Andrée's death at the age of 16. After having lost her sister and best friend, Huguette was sent alone to a school for the "daughters of elite," where her dance teacher was Isadora Duncan. In 1925 her father died, but due to the terms of his will, Anna and Huguette moved to an apartment at 907 Fifth Avenue. Huguette married in 1928, but it didn't last, and she was divorced by 1930. As time went on, Huguette began to stop seeing visitors, becoming reclusive, and eventually stopped leaving her apartment. Anna died in 1963, and Huguette "throws herself" into her art -- which consisted of painting and meticulously furnishing dollhouses, or more accurately, storyhouses where she could move her dolls (a massive collection) through the rooms, having them do different things, and studying cartoons frame by frame. She spent tons of money on these projects, and was also very generous with her money among friends and supporting worthy causes (along with paying for upkeep of the "empty mansions" she'd inherited) from her "fairy-tale checkbook," but above all valued her privacy, trusting in her attorney and her accountant to handle all business transactions. But Huguette had also been getting treatment for skin cancer, and when her doctor died in 1990, she didn't look for another one, and all the while she was getting worse. A friend persuaded her to go the hospital for treatment, and she ended up at Doctors Hospital, a "treatment center for the wealthy," in New York City. At the age of 85, within two months of Huguette's surgeries, she becomes an "indefinite patient," at Doctors Hospital, choosing to remain there for the rest of her life, never telling family where she was, ordering everyone to respect her privacy at all costs. According to the authors, within a month, one of her doctors alerts the hospital's powers-that-be Huguette is the daughter of a multimillionaire, and that he'd be willing to help develop an "appropriate cultivation approach." Behind her back, they made fun of her, but the hospital officials hold meetings to figure out how to get her to give up some of her money. The president of the hospital, again according to the authors, boldly says that "Madame, as you know, is the biggest bucks contributing potential we have ever had." The doctors go all out trying to get her to cough up in a number of measures that can only be described as coercive. It wasn't just the officials or her doctors who got part of her money, either, one of them outright blackmailing her into loaning him an extra $500,000 on top of the million she'd already given him. Her private nurse/companion is Hadassah Peri who also came to benefit from Huguette's generosity, as Huguette gave her and her family several "gifts" of cash and property, coming to over $30 million dollars. By the time of her death, Huguette was cash poor, and had been selling off extremely valuable possessions to pay for the little "gifts" she gave out as well as the taxes attached to the gifts. I will say that the first parts of the book that went back to the days when W.A. Clark was making his fortune and building up a tarnished reputation as a Montana senator were pretty dull, and that I almost put the book down. Once the early history was finished, however, the story picked up with a vengeance. There were parts that shocked, parts that made me downright angry, and parts where I couldn't tell whether Huguette was mentally disturbed, easily taken advantage of or coerced, or whether she was just exercising her right to spend her money the way she chose to. I just wanted to know her story and how she got to the point where she chose to stay in a hospital for twenty years, but it turned into much more than that. There are some really good questions raised in this book, but in the end, I discovered that it actually raises more than it answers. That's not a bad thing, and there are probably things that will never be known, even when this upcoming trial gets underway. Definitely recommended, and while not all reviews have been positive, I don't really pay attention to them when I find something I've really liked reading. If you are looking for something beyond the ordinary, you'll definitely find it here.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Madeline

    Empty Mansions is the kind of journalistic-style nonfiction book that started in the best way: a writer starts with a simple question, and it leads them down a rabbit hole of sordid family history, scandal, and decades of buried secrets. In this case, the writer is Bill Dedman, and the question is this: what was the story behind a California mansion, never occupied, that was put up for sale in 2009. Who built the house, why did they never live there, and why was it being sold now? These question Empty Mansions is the kind of journalistic-style nonfiction book that started in the best way: a writer starts with a simple question, and it leads them down a rabbit hole of sordid family history, scandal, and decades of buried secrets. In this case, the writer is Bill Dedman, and the question is this: what was the story behind a California mansion, never occupied, that was put up for sale in 2009. Who built the house, why did they never live there, and why was it being sold now? These questions eventually led Dedman to the legal owner of the house, a 104-year-old heiress named Huguette Clark who, despite being worth millions, secluded herself in a hospital room and was so reclusive that she hadn't been photographed in decades. Dedman's book traces the history of Huguette and her family, who were once counted among the Rockefellers and Astors, and investigated how such a powerful and wealthy dynasty could have ended with one woman in a tiny hospital room. The most interesting aspect of Empty Mansions was the history of the Clark family and their glory days, with Huguette and her family going on lavish vacations (and narrowly missing traveling on the Titanic), hanging out with famous historical figures, and building lavish homes that they barely lived in. Dedman traces the family's rise and fall, as the family starts to diminish and their fortunes can't keep up with the modern era. He investigates Huguette's estate and the people responsible for it, and essentially tries to figure out how the Clark family, and Huguette herself, managed to disappear from history so thoroughly. At its best, Empty Mansions is an intriguing inside look at one of the forgotten richest families in history. But once the glory days are over, we're left with a frankly depressing story of a lonely old woman sitting on a fortune she'll never use, waiting to die alone. And there's probably some undiagnosed mental health issues on top of that - Huguette's total disinterest in romantic relationships, insistence on being essentially hospitalized despite apparent good health, and her lifelong obsession with fairy tales and other childlike interests suggest, at the very least, some pretty serious arrested development. Dedman, to his credit, doesn't get bogged down in armchair diagnoses, and that's for the best - at the end of the day, you just sort of feel sorry for Huguette, and I have to give credit to the way Dedman investigates her and her life in a way that's still respectful. If you can, try getting this as an audiobook. In addition to some recorded phone calls with Huguette's living relatives, Dedman also includes recordings of his conversations with Huguette, which are as fascinating as they are frustrating - Huguette is literally a woman out of time, seemingly trapped in the turn of the century, and listening to her describe her incredible life is quite the experience. But at the same time, girlfriend is over a hundred years old, so understanding what she's saying is...a struggle. But still, it's worth tracking down the audiobook just so you can listen to her talk about her life.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Char

    What an interesting biography! Imagine being a millionaire several times over and rather than staying in one of your mansions, or in your huge beachfront property, you choose to stay in a small private room in a hospital for nearly two decades instead. Empty Mansions goes into the life of Huguette Clark and her family. Her father created his huge wealth mining copper and other things, (he seemed to have the Midas touch), but later in life he fell into politics and then scandal. Take a peak at What an interesting biography! Imagine being a millionaire several times over and rather than staying in one of your mansions, or in your huge beachfront property, you choose to stay in a small private room in a hospital for nearly two decades instead. Empty Mansions goes into the life of Huguette Clark and her family. Her father created his huge wealth mining copper and other things, (he seemed to have the Midas touch), but later in life he fell into politics and then scandal. Take a peak at some of her apartments and Huguette herself here: https://www.google.com/search?q=hugue... Huguette grew up rich with all the benefits of travel and schooling that come with that. She became reclusive after her sister and parents died. However, she was very close to some members of her family as well as certain friends and employees of hers, and they ALL benefited a LOT from their relationships. As it seems to be with most wealthy people, once she passed away, some long lost family members showed up and challenged her will. I'll leave off the biography there, but did want to mention that at the end of this audiobook recorded phone conversations between Huguette and one of her relatives are played. (Some snippets of the conversations were played earlier in the book.) It was eerie to hear her voice after learning so much about her. She seemed to be a very sweet and warm woman, which makes what happened to her and her estate even more sad. Recommended to anyone interested in learning more about this fascinating, reclusive woman and her family.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Sumi

    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 Connecticut to California that remain echoingly empty. Although she’s in good health, she lives the final two decades of her life secluded in a New York City hospital room, communicating to a few friends by phone. Most people don't know she's in a hospital. She pays for things by quickly selling off pric 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 Connecticut to California that remain echoingly empty. Although she’s in good health, she lives the final two decades of her life secluded in a New York City hospital room, communicating to a few friends by phone. Most people don't know she's in a hospital. She pays for things by quickly selling off priceless paintings; she gives tens of millions to her nurse. How sane is she? Is she being taken advantage of by lawyer, accountant, nurse, hospital administrators? Is she happy? And where the hell is her family? These are just a few of the questions at the heart of this fascinating if slightly hollow book, one of two published in 2013 about Huguette Clark, the heiress of a copper fortune who died, in 2011, at the age of 104. (The other is called The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark.) Bill Dedman’s book has the feel of an extended Vanity Fair article about some eccentric person you’ve never heard of whose family’s combined wealth at one time far exceeded that of more famous names like Vanderbilt and Rockefeller. It’s been a few weeks since I finished the book, and I have to admit that, as with many longish VF articles, I haven’t retained much. A lot of time is spent on how Clark’s father, William, came from a humble rural background to amass a fortune during the gold rush, settling in Montana and making money by trading, banking and repossessing mining claims when their owners were overextended. Later he entered politics, bribing his way to a seat in the Senate. He also helped found Las Vegas. This is all moderately interesting, if a little long. Huguette was the younger daughter of Anna, Clark’s second wife. Her sister, Andrée, died tragically young, an event that may have altered Huguette’s outlook on life and cautious nature. She herself was courted by many eligible men, ended up marrying a lawyer named William Gower, but divorcing soon after. This is all shrouded in mystery. Did she hate sex? It's implied but never stated. At any rate, she seemed to have carried on a mostly epistolary relationship with a Frenchman who had vague ties to the aristocracy (something of an obsession with Huguette and her mother), going so far as to provide the man – and his future family! – with infusions of cash. For decades. There’s lots of information about the Clark family’s buying and selling of European art – especially French paintings – as well a clutch of priceless Stradivarius string instruments. And much of the book is taken up with Huguette’s own art. She painted in oils at a time when women were expected only to dabble in watercolours, and judging from the reproductions in the book, she had talent. Later in life she commissioned French illustrators to recreate French fairy tales for her (only the romantic bits; no violent or sad endings) and got Japanese artisans to fashion intricate dollhouses from exacting specifications. She was quite the Japanophile. The problem with the book is that there’s really no point of view to it. Huguette isn’t a grotesque figure of pity or camp like those Grey Gardens women. Nor did she spend her mostly solitary life regretting a man, like the Miss Havisham she’s often made out to be. She's merely eccentric and set in her ways, and obsessed with privacy. She would do anything to avoid publicity. The book also lacks a villain, unless you count the greedy hospital administrator who tried to extract a big donation from the woman while she was staying with them. There are far too many details in the book about lawyers' and accountants' fees. And the fact that Clark's accountant was a registered sex offender seems like a red herring. None of the characters, Huguette included, ever leaps off the page. Even people like Huguette’s Filipino-American nurse, Hadassah, whose working-class family got something like $32 million in gifts from her employer during her lifetime, remains a mystery, although she’s still alive and, presumably, quite comfortable. Dedman occasionally tries to create tension and momentum, using little cheesy cliffhangers at the end of chapters. But these never go anywhere. And he can’t cover up the lack of direction. Director Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck, Glee, American Horror Story) has optioned the TV and film rights to the story. Here’s hoping he hires a good screenwriter. If together they find the right approach, there’s an Emmy or Oscar in it for an older actress. I’m thinking Jessica Lange...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Misfit

    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 downloaded it. "The only ones more affluent at Clark’s death during the Roaring Twenties were the oilman John D. Rockefeller, the automobile maker Henry Ford, the banking Mellon brothers, and Cyrus H. K. Curtis, publisher of The Ladies’ Home Journal and The Saturday Evening Post. To put it another way, W.A. 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 downloaded it. "The only ones more affluent at Clark’s death during the Roaring Twenties were the oilman John D. Rockefeller, the automobile maker Henry Ford, the banking Mellon brothers, and Cyrus H. K. Curtis, publisher of The Ladies’ Home Journal and The Saturday Evening Post. To put it another way, W.A. died with personal wealth equivalent to one day’s share of the entire gross national product in 1925." I found it just amazing that a family as stinking rich as the Clarks were could go under the publicity radar. We all still remember the names of the other millionaires from back in the day, Rockefeller, Astor, Vanderbilt, etc., but not the Clarks. Even with all her money, Huguette was able to live off the publicity radar a virtual recluse, only to have her story discovered by accident when the author (a reporter) was shopping real estate and decided to look up properties he couldn't afford and discovered a house with an absentee owner for many years still paying the taxes and the upkeep, but never lived there. "The most expensive house for sale in Connecticut, in the tony town of New Canaan, was priced at $24 million, marked down from $35 million. Billed as Le Beau Château, “the beautiful castle,” this charmer had 14,266 square feet of floor space tucked into fifty-two wooded acres with a river and a waterfall. Its twenty-two rooms included nine bedrooms, nine baths, eleven fireplaces, a wine cellar, elevator..." And then there's the house at Santa Barbara: "The lush estate was called Bellosguardo, meaning “beautiful lookout.” According to the Internet chatter, Huguette had not been seen there in at least fifty years, but the 21,666-square-foot mansion was immaculately kept, with 1930s sedans still in the garage, and the table set just in case the owner should visit." And the New York apartments: " Huguette Clark’s apartments took up the entire eighth floor of the building and half the twelfth, or top floor, for a grand total of forty-two rooms and fifteen thousand square feet on Fifth Avenue, the most fashionable street in the most expensive city in America." I won't go on with the details, this is one where you can either read the book and/or wander over to the book's website with lots of eye-candy, mind-boggling photos of the homes and Hugette's possessions. Link. And the lists of all the stuff that was inside the NY and Santa Barbara homes? Wowza. A very sad story of so much wasted potential (would have liked to see some of those checks go to feed hungry people), and while I understand Ms. Clark was a giving person, I was sorry to see that so many people around her were so quick to accept more and more and more and more from her.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    I hastily put a hold on this book at the library after reading my GR friend Kris' review. (In fact I tried to request it before they had ordered it, I was so anxious to read this!) This is the story of Hugette Clark, the youngest daughter of William A. Clark, a business tycoon who made his fortune in copper. While unknown today, his riches rivaled men such as Rockefeller or Vanderbilt. Starting with William's parents, the Clark family spanned the entire history of this country in three generation I hastily put a hold on this book at the library after reading my GR friend Kris' review. (In fact I tried to request it before they had ordered it, I was so anxious to read this!) This is the story of Hugette Clark, the youngest daughter of William A. Clark, a business tycoon who made his fortune in copper. While unknown today, his riches rivaled men such as Rockefeller or Vanderbilt. Starting with William's parents, the Clark family spanned the entire history of this country in three generations. Hugette, though she did marry --for a year--re-assumed the name Clark for the remainder of her life (1906-2011) and was known variably as Madame, Hugo, Mrs Clark and other titles during her life. She was born in France, spent her early years there and always spoke with a slight accent according to those who knew her. She also used French in conversation, especially to have private conversations if sevants, employees or others were around. This book deals with the story of her father's life, his marriage to her mother, her family life and her adult life especially as it becomes more and more removed from the visible world.Why on earth would a woman with hundreds of millions of dollars, five estates, wonderful art and other belongings, live her last twenty years in a hospital room? That is the central question asked by the authors. And it is very well worth reading to find the answers. Along the way, you will learn much you didn't know about American history and art and music and so much about this one lady. I truly would have liked to meet her just once! Highly, Highly recommended! PS...there are many period photographs included. for a review I won't even try to emulate I will recommend you read Kris' at https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    This is a very interesting story although it did get a bit long (in my opinion). It amazed me how much money this family had. I loved learning how W.A. Clark made his fortune (he did not inherit anything). He lead a very interesting life. His daughter was a very odd lady. She owned amazing homes she either hadn't been in for over 40 years or never at all. (If you google them you will see how beautiful they are). Obviously, no one really knew her very well in her adult life as lived pretty much a This is a very interesting story although it did get a bit long (in my opinion). It amazed me how much money this family had. I loved learning how W.A. Clark made his fortune (he did not inherit anything). He lead a very interesting life. His daughter was a very odd lady. She owned amazing homes she either hadn't been in for over 40 years or never at all. (If you google them you will see how beautiful they are). Obviously, no one really knew her very well in her adult life as lived pretty much as a hermit. It is described that she had her mental faculties until she died at an amazing 105 years old. I am angered that family (distant) are contesting her will. She was worth about $300 million when she died. I do think there are some people who abused her and her money (her nurse, the hospital she lived in for her last 20 years to name a couple) but I feel strongly that she has every right to give her money to whomever she chooses, even if the family is not part of that. It was her money! Some of these family members are decendants of her half siblings and those siblings inherited the same amount as she did. I am going to have to google and find out where the money ended up. Recommeded!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Toni

    I looked forward to reading this book, especially as Dedman, one of the authors, is a Puliter Prize winner. It was interesting and chock full of research. However, it was too full of research—such as the enormous size of the water heater in the Connecticut chateau or the census results with regard to the servants at the Fifth Avenue apartment—that seemed to me to have been included whether or not they moved along the admittedly fascinating tale of the Clark family, especially Huguette Clark and I looked forward to reading this book, especially as Dedman, one of the authors, is a Puliter Prize winner. It was interesting and chock full of research. However, it was too full of research—such as the enormous size of the water heater in the Connecticut chateau or the census results with regard to the servants at the Fifth Avenue apartment—that seemed to me to have been included whether or not they moved along the admittedly fascinating tale of the Clark family, especially Huguette Clark and her empty mansions. A great deal of the early part of the book was dedicated to W. A. Clark, the father who earned the fabulous fortune. (He was thought to have been wealthier than Rockefeller.) While this background was essential, it belied the book's title. As a sometimes academic, I am accustomed to reading non-fiction, with half-page footnotes and long bibliographies. Arranged in such a manner, perhaps this book would have appealed to me more. Instead, I found the organization somewhat confusing, and the facts, which could have been intriguing, became just more facts. Because I received this book as a Firstreads winner, I felt compelled to finish it—it took me several weeks as I kept putting it aside. Nonetheless, I would recommend this book to those interested in history and those interested in the facts and foibles of the fabulously wealthy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    There is a small bedroom off a hall leading from the third-floor ballroom in the Copper King Mansion in Butte, Montana. The bedroom was once that of a servant of William A. Clark; now it’s the home of hundreds of dolls. Thousands of glass eyes stare at visitors from the rug-to-ceiling collection that lines all four walls of the bedroom. Huguette Clark wasn’t responsible for the room’s décor; the mansion was bought in the 1950s by a lady whose children and grandchildren operate it as a B&B. Like There is a small bedroom off a hall leading from the third-floor ballroom in the Copper King Mansion in Butte, Montana. The bedroom was once that of a servant of William A. Clark; now it’s the home of hundreds of dolls. Thousands of glass eyes stare at visitors from the rug-to-ceiling collection that lines all four walls of the bedroom. Huguette Clark wasn’t responsible for the room’s décor; the mansion was bought in the 1950s by a lady whose children and grandchildren operate it as a B&B. Like “Madame” Clark, the lady was a collector. Each room is stuffed to the gills with different objects. But only in this room do you get a sense of what W.A. Clark’s youngest heir lived like. When you’re surrounded by all those unblinking doll eyes it raises the hairs on the back of your neck. Like a lot of other Montanans, I was intrigued by the story of Huguette Clark once MSNBC reporter Bill Dedman started uncovering the story of the then-suspected “missing” heir to the $300 million Clark fortune a few years ago. I’ve been to the Copper King Mansion several times and I travel to Butte regularly for work (and fun; despite the city’s tough reputation, it’s got a quirky Irish-Serbian-Italian culture, funky little museums, a killer music festival in July, and a foodie’s ultimate gourmet cooking shop, the Front Street Market). Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Huguette’s grand-nephew, tie his years-long investigation and Clark family history together in Empty Mansions. Let me tell you, for a resident of Montana this was one incredibly frustrating read. As the authors mention, the reason why Clark’s name isn’t as well known in America as that of Carnegie or Rockefeller is because W.A. rarely donated to charity during his lifetime in a similar effort to rehabilitate his name. Montanans know all about this; it’s why in our imagination he lost the War of the Copper Kings to the generous and jovial Marcus Daly. The Copper King’s daughter? She gave back even less to the public at large. (Unless, of course, you consider pervy accountants, grasping nurses, and unethical hospital administrators charity causes.) Her father left us with a legacy of environmental degradation and political corruption. Huguette refused to donate to even the smallest of causes in the state that made her father’s fortune: a home for orphans in Butte named for her half-brother who died at a young age. Dedman and Newell try to restore some dignity to Mrs. Clark’s life, comparing her to the shy yet happy cricket who avoids the short, painful life a beautiful social butterfly leads in a French children’s poem she loved and regularly recited aloud. As a reader, their effort didn’t fly. In black and white on the pages of Mansions, you meet a wealthy woman so incapacitated by fear of change, loss, other people, sex, any physical contact what so ever she’d rather have her face permanently disfigured by cancer than leave her dolls and dollhouses and seek early treatment. The authors try to convince the reader Huguette’s passions were no different from your average baseball card collector; it’s rare, however, for the latter to become a multi-millionaire’s sole companions. She could do anything she wanted with her money, so much good, and yet she spent her isolated life fussing over ceiling heights and panel widths in a toy German cottage or Japanese estate. The few relationships she had outside her final apartment were largely based on money. (view spoiler)[Even the French “boyfriend” referred to on the book’s dust jacket was another unconsummated “romance” reinforced by regular gifts of cash and groceries for his entire family. (hide spoiler)] A few years ago, there was an effort in Montana to pressure the Corcoran Gallery to allow a traveling exhibition across the state of just a few pieces of the art in the collection our natural resources bought the Clark family. The Corcoran said no, not without more money. Money. Usually, wealth in a biography is at the heart of a life’s wild ride through this world. In Empty Mansions, however, its presence is depressing. Don’t get me wrong, as the history of a great fortune lost in the hands of a recluse it’s a fascinating story. I could barely put the book down. It just should have been called—with apologies to the TV show—Arrested Development.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...

    Empty Mansions is a really great title for this book, which is filled with insight and heart. I felt as though the author became a fan of and a friend to Huguette as he studied her life. And he wrote her story with respect and love. I found myself feeling sad and angry on her behalf. I found myself hoping for her life to change. Mr Dedman did a really good job of building the appropriate sympathy and empathy. He also made me want to know more -- and I found myself doing online searches to determ Empty Mansions is a really great title for this book, which is filled with insight and heart. I felt as though the author became a fan of and a friend to Huguette as he studied her life. And he wrote her story with respect and love. I found myself feeling sad and angry on her behalf. I found myself hoping for her life to change. Mr Dedman did a really good job of building the appropriate sympathy and empathy. He also made me want to know more -- and I found myself doing online searches to determine how the estate was settled and where the lawyers and doctors were today. When a book makes me want to learn more, it has done a good job.

  21. 4 out of 5

    MaryannC. Book Freak

    I'm truly astonished by the wealth in this book! I have never even heard of W.A. Clark or his daughter Huguette, that's how reclusive she had become over the years. But this was a fascinating look into the world of the ultra-rich during a time period that I wish I could have seen but can only ever imagine. Recommended. I'm truly astonished by the wealth in this book! I have never even heard of W.A. Clark or his daughter Huguette, that's how reclusive she had become over the years. But this was a fascinating look into the world of the ultra-rich during a time period that I wish I could have seen but can only ever imagine. Recommended.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Huether

    Hugette Clark an heiress with three homes. She never lived in the one in Connecticut. She visited the home in Santa Barbara and she live in the one in New York City. Her father W.A. Clark was the money maker in the copper industry, railroad builder and he founded Las Vegas. Hugettes mother was very shy. Hugette was very close to her mother; having her New York residence, a duplicate of her mother's home. Her sister Andree died at a young age. Hugette love art and studied it with Tade Styka. She al Hugette Clark an heiress with three homes. She never lived in the one in Connecticut. She visited the home in Santa Barbara and she live in the one in New York City. Her father W.A. Clark was the money maker in the copper industry, railroad builder and he founded Las Vegas. Hugettes mother was very shy. Hugette was very close to her mother; having her New York residence, a duplicate of her mother's home. Her sister Andree died at a young age. Hugette love art and studied it with Tade Styka. She also love dolls and collected many, spending close to fifty thousand for two dolls. She also love doll houses, completed furnished with doll size food. She was enamored with Japan, although she had never been there. Privacy was dear to her. When her mother's jewels were taken from Citi Bank, she didn't want to sue, for fear her name would be the the newspapers. Hugette was by nature a very generous person, giving gifts to family and money to those who cared for her. She wrote letters and received photos from friends and family. She lived her last twenty years in hospital rooms, hidden away from the public. All her business was directed through her lawyer. She was being treated for skin cancer on her lip and eye lid. The cancer never killed her. She died of old age at 104 years To live happily, live hidden. From the "Cricket" poem.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    Un. Put. Down. Able. I took a break for dinner and to sleep through the night and that's about it. Somehow I missed all the hype about Huguette Clark when she lived and died and just happened upon this at the bookstore. I could not be more happy that I did. The gist: reporter discovers in 2009 that an American heiress named Huguette Clark has three enormous homes (in Santa Barbara, New Canaan, and Manhattan) and that she hasn't lived in any of them in at least twenty years. The house in New Cana Un. Put. Down. Able. I took a break for dinner and to sleep through the night and that's about it. Somehow I missed all the hype about Huguette Clark when she lived and died and just happened upon this at the bookstore. I could not be more happy that I did. The gist: reporter discovers in 2009 that an American heiress named Huguette Clark has three enormous homes (in Santa Barbara, New Canaan, and Manhattan) and that she hasn't lived in any of them in at least twenty years. The house in New Canaan has been empty since she bought it. In 1953. But all three are meticulously maintained, at a yearly expense into the hundreds of thousands. Who on earth is Huguette Clark? Where is Huguette Clark? And why are her houses empty? The answer takes you back to her father's birth in Pennsylvania -- in 1839. He made his fortune in Montana's copper mines, bought himself a Senate seat, married twice, sired many children, and built himself the largest and most expensive home in New York City, at 77th and Fifth. Huguette was his youngest and she was born in 1906 in France, where her youthful mother had been taking harp lessons. After a quick marriage and Reno divorce, Huguette disappeared from society, living with her mother in their enormous Fifth Avenue apartment, painting in the Japanese style and collecting dolls and dollhouses that she often had custom made around the world. After a brief treatment for cancer in 1991 she spent her last twenty years at Beth Israel Medical Center, but not because she was ill; she just liked it better there. When she finally died in 2011, at the age of 104, she had willed almost all her $300 million, not to her family, but to charity, her personal nurse (to whom she had already given more than $30 million), and to various other friends and staff members. Not a penny went to relatives. The family--various great and great-great nieces and nephews, none of whom she had seen since 1968, many of whom she had never met--contested the will, claiming she had been unduly influenced. It didn't help matters that her lawyer and accountant had been receiving gifts all along, hadn't been making her pay federal gift taxes, and that the accountant had recently pled guilty to online sexual solicitation of minors. You cannot make this shit up! More than just a truly fantastical story about rags-to-riches America, Gilded Age splendor, old Manhattan, and insane wealth, it also makes you think about big questions: What is eccentricity? Who does "deserve" the hundreds of millions of dollars that one person inherits from another? What is the "right" way to spend money? Why did Huguette Clark disappear from public view when others--the Astors and Vanderbilts and their ilk, with far less than she--chose to remain a part of society? While it can't possibly answer all these questions, for thinking about them alone, the book is great fun. And just FASCINATING. Every minute away from Huguette I just wanted to run back for more.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bayneeta

    Maybe 3 1/2 stars. Especially enjoyed the material on the reclusive Huguette's copper baron father, W.A. Clark who amassed the vast fortune she spent so eccentricly. Well researched with extensive notes section. A nice long article in The New Yorker on the subject would have probably satisfied my curiosity. Maybe 3 1/2 stars. Especially enjoyed the material on the reclusive Huguette's copper baron father, W.A. Clark who amassed the vast fortune she spent so eccentricly. Well researched with extensive notes section. A nice long article in The New Yorker on the subject would have probably satisfied my curiosity.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Where I got the book: LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program Journalist Bill Dedman came across one of Huguette Clark's properties when, frustrated by never seeming to find the right house to move to, he decided to look up properties he really couldn't afford on the internet. As you do. This led him to discover that Huguette Clark had spent the last decades of her life in an ordinary room in a New York hospital, despite being in reasonable health and having multi-million-dollar real estate in New Y Where I got the book: LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program Journalist Bill Dedman came across one of Huguette Clark's properties when, frustrated by never seeming to find the right house to move to, he decided to look up properties he really couldn't afford on the internet. As you do. This led him to discover that Huguette Clark had spent the last decades of her life in an ordinary room in a New York hospital, despite being in reasonable health and having multi-million-dollar real estate in New York, Connecticut and California. He discovered that Madame Clark, as she liked to be known, was the daughter of a copper baron, famous in his lifetime but now forgotten, and his very much younger second wife. She'd spent her early years in France and still retained a slight French accent and a fondness for all things French. She collected dolls and dollhouses, painted in oils and was obsessed with Japanese culture; and yet after living such a reclusive life in her New York apartment that she had allowed cancer to eat away at her face, she now preferred to look at photos of her collections from her hospital bed. And she gave away money--lots of it. Despite the concerted efforts of the hospital and various art foundations to milk her for all she was worth, Huguette preferred to give her money to the people in her life; hospital staff, assistants, the people who looked after her properties and, a little sinisterly, her lawyer and accountant. This created some definite potential conflicts of interest for the people in contact with her, not to mention enormous consequences in terms of gift tax and some very bad feeling on the part of her extended family who didn't actually bother to visit her but wanted her money anyway. There are quite a few levels to this story. There's the history of W.A. Clark, Huguette's father, and how he made his fortune and steamrolled his way into politics, for one. The guy was a player with a foot in US history; the unneeded lots he sold off from his railroad holdings, for example, formed the core of downtown Las Vegas. He did things on a massive scale but once he was dead, nobody carried his legacy forward; they broke up his homes and spent his money instead. As we all know, the entrepreneurial spirit rarely survives a privileged childhood. Then there's the story of Huguette's great spendathon aka her life. I don't think there's anyone for whom the idea of having a bottomless checkbook doesn't bring a gleam to the eye. Huguette had that checkbook--more money than she could get through in her lifetime. There are lists of gifts, lists of purchases, jaw-dropping figures galore for the breathlessly envious or avidly curious to peruse and sigh over. Then there's the sad personal story of a woman who must have always wondered if her friends were friends because of her or because of her money. Even the distant cousin who spoke with her three or four times a year on the phone was recording those conversations and co-authored the book; he wasn't in the will, but boy he could still make money from Tante Huguette. It's a great picture of how life as a seriously moneyed person is also a lonely life, and it makes me very happy that my own checkbook has a very solid bottom. The material is nicely arranged, the writing is lively and there are pictures. An interesting book for the nonfiction lover with a fascination for how the other half live.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Valerity (Val)

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Fascinating once I got into it, the book ended up being an all night read for me. I found it a few years late, but I enjoyed many of the great reviews here on it already. One thing that amazed me is the breadth of time it covers between Huguette's life and her father's W.A Clark. It tells of gold rush stories with men taking off out west to try to make their fortune, including her father. And encompasses the Civil War era through 9/11 in New York. Kind of stunning to think of all of the changes Fascinating once I got into it, the book ended up being an all night read for me. I found it a few years late, but I enjoyed many of the great reviews here on it already. One thing that amazed me is the breadth of time it covers between Huguette's life and her father's W.A Clark. It tells of gold rush stories with men taking off out west to try to make their fortune, including her father. And encompasses the Civil War era through 9/11 in New York. Kind of stunning to think of all of the changes in life in America during the times these 2 lives covered. I really enjoyed learning about W.A Clark's life, his climb to success and somewhat scandalous 2nd marriage, which wasn't revealed to anyone until it was nearly 3 years in the past, and had produced a 2 year old daughter! The amounts of money involved in this book were nearly mind-numbing after a while. I was astonished by the funds W.A. poured into building his fantastic mansion on Millionaire's Row in New York, spending many millions over a 13 year period of building, only to live there for just 14 years until he died. The place was demolished and replaced by an apartment building a couple of years later, with no one ever living in it again. He had known that it would be too expensive for anyone else to maintain, and would be just theirs. I learned a great deal about W.A. Clark's life and all he was into with business, copper mines, his own railroad out west, newspapers, and even went on to be a Congressman. Although that later became a stain on his reputation when it was said he'd bribed his way into it. A messy period of his life. Then there is the story of his daughter and her life, which is practically another book in itself. She lived 104 years of great wealth, yet spent the last couple of decades in a small hospital room by choice. She had 2 beautiful homes and a place in New York she could have enjoyed instead, yet reclusively chose to stay put inside the hospital. But that's just the surface of her story. She became a rather good painter and had her own appreciation for art after growing up with her father's massive art collection decorating their mansion. She also collected dolls and dollhouses in a big way. She lost a relative on the Titanic, and had been booked for it's next crossing due to a delay, or her family would have been on the first voyage also. This was planned to be a fairly brief review, but it seems with this book that is difficult for me to do. It's just such a multifaceted story of this family and their lives, and fortune that was amassed and later battled for after the patriarch's passing. There is a lot to like for many types of readers.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    It took me a couple of months before I could get this book from my library. I was something like 35 in the reserve line, so my expectations were pretty high. It took me a while to get into it, but I will say that where other reviewers were unhappy about the amount of time spent discussing Huguette's father W.A. Clark, I actually really enjoyed his story. In fact, I am very interested in learning more about him. A self-made man who become one of the wealthiest in U.S. history. . . Who wouldn't be It took me a couple of months before I could get this book from my library. I was something like 35 in the reserve line, so my expectations were pretty high. It took me a while to get into it, but I will say that where other reviewers were unhappy about the amount of time spent discussing Huguette's father W.A. Clark, I actually really enjoyed his story. In fact, I am very interested in learning more about him. A self-made man who become one of the wealthiest in U.S. history. . . Who wouldn't be interested in that. The story of the father paints a picture of a man who is hard working, driven and savvy in both social and financial issues. His story serves as a contrast to his daughter who spends her time and money on mostly leisurely pursuits. She was divorced quick and never had children, and possibly never slept with a man. However, she was very interested in friend's families and children. It's a bit of a contradiction to be so concerned with the families of employees and friends but have little to no interest in getting to know any of her own relatives from her father's first marriage. While Huguette was a bit of an odd bird by modern standards, I found her doll collecting and doll house creating to be more interesting than an indication that something was wrong with her. She was extremely generous, which is obvious as the authors list millions of dollars in gifts to employees and friends. However, the authors leave it to the reader's interpretation as to whether she was taken advantage of or not, and when you finish reading it you come away without a clear answer. It leaves you thinking. I think that her accountant and lawyer in the end were absolutely looking out for their own financial gains. Her nurse, Hadassah Peri, started off as humbly accepting gifts, but as time when on it seems clear to me that she began to take advantage of Huguette's generosity and trust in her. Her own children wrote letters to her "suggesting" gifts that she give them, when she already bought them houses, cars and extensive educations. I think it was disturbing how Hadassah insisted on getting an extra $5 million when she had already received millions and refuses to compromise on Huguette's will (her family is challenging it). As to the family's challenge of the will, I believe some of them had good intentions when they began the process of checking up on Huguette, but see it as too little too late. I think they are desperately grabbing for what money she had left. It's a sad situation and sounds like both parties will end up depleting all of the money on legal fees and end up with very little, if anything. One of the craziest stories in the book was Citibank essentially stealing millions of dollars in Huguette's mother's jewelry, selling it or misplacing it, and then giving her a sub-par amount to replace it, knowing that it would ruin her privacy if she pursued legal action (which she wouldn't do). It breaks my heart to see that not only trusted advisers took advantage of her, but the big companies that many people today still do business with. Good book, interesting story, thought provoking. I would recommend. I have been talking about it to friends and family. There are still more things I am shocked and upset about that I haven't even included in this review, such as the demolition of the Clark Mansion in NYC. What a waste! Also wish there were more pictures of Bellosguardo.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    A Fairytale Life Hugette Clark, the youngest daughter of W.A. Clark, the Copper King, lived a reclusive life. The fabulous amount of money inherited from her father allowed her to live exactly the way she wanted which included having two homes and three apartments that she didn't visit for over 20 years or more. One, Bellosguardo, was kept ready for an immanent visit for nearly forty years. She collected dolls, paintings and musical instruments. She paid for doll houses built to her specification A Fairytale Life Hugette Clark, the youngest daughter of W.A. Clark, the Copper King, lived a reclusive life. The fabulous amount of money inherited from her father allowed her to live exactly the way she wanted which included having two homes and three apartments that she didn't visit for over 20 years or more. One, Bellosguardo, was kept ready for an immanent visit for nearly forty years. She collected dolls, paintings and musical instruments. She paid for doll houses built to her specifications and gave away large sums of money to people she liked, sometimes to people she didn't know. Empty Mansions is a sensitive portrait of a very private woman. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her childhood in the immense mansion in New York City, about her time with her adored mother, Anna, at Bellosguardo near Los Angeles, and her interest in art and music. The story becomes bizarre when in her 80s with several cancerous tumors on her face she is taken to Doctors Hospital. She's cured, but refuses to leave the hospital preferring to remain there with a private duty nurse rather than resume life in her beautiful homes. Predictably her death set off a scramble for her fortune. The family is convinced that the nurse, attorney and accountant exercised undue influence in having her sign a will cutting them out and setting up a foundation for the arts at Bellosguardo. It will be interesting to see it how it plays out. I highly recommend this book for several reasons. It gives a well researched picture of one of the great American fortunes, it provides a glimpse of the remarkable Gilded Age, and it paints a portrait of a strange, reclusive woman. I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cathrine ☯️

    I lived in Santa Barbara California for 18 years and never heard about Bellosguardo, one of Huguette Clark's empty mansions now valued at close to one hundred million dollars, nor did I know the accompanying bird refuge next to the zoo was a gift to the city in honor of her deceased sister. I had toured Hearst Castle in San Simeon many times. We all knew about the Hearst family and their wealth. One of the fascinating details in regard to Mr. Clark, her father and a United States senator, is tha I lived in Santa Barbara California for 18 years and never heard about Bellosguardo, one of Huguette Clark's empty mansions now valued at close to one hundred million dollars, nor did I know the accompanying bird refuge next to the zoo was a gift to the city in honor of her deceased sister. I had toured Hearst Castle in San Simeon many times. We all knew about the Hearst family and their wealth. One of the fascinating details in regard to Mr. Clark, her father and a United States senator, is that in todays economy, his net worth would be third in the world, only Warren Buffett and Bill Gates out-earning him, and until this book hardly anyone knew who he was, where all that money came from, and where it went. It's a fascinating tale about an eccentric, artistic, generous, introverted woman, full of painstaking details, perhaps meant to make up for all that lack of knowledge. For me, sometimes too much detail about everyone and everything associated with Huguette, therefore a bit tedious in parts. One hundred less pages would have been right for me. There are photos, interviews, and video online which I took interest in pursuing. What a life, what a story.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    What an amazing piece of American history I never knew anything about! I rather enjoy the Gilded Age and stories of the robber barons (and their downfall to be honest)... I had never heard of W.A. Clark, his family, his business, his unbelievable wealth. As fascinated as I was with the history, I was completely taken by the intriguing and somewhat sad tale of Huguette. What an amazing life - to have lived to almost 105... to have traveled the world and then settle yourself as a recluse of sorts. What an amazing piece of American history I never knew anything about! I rather enjoy the Gilded Age and stories of the robber barons (and their downfall to be honest)... I had never heard of W.A. Clark, his family, his business, his unbelievable wealth. As fascinated as I was with the history, I was completely taken by the intriguing and somewhat sad tale of Huguette. What an amazing life - to have lived to almost 105... to have traveled the world and then settle yourself as a recluse of sorts. I was sneering and harumphing for chapters on end, not sure how to feel about her nurse, her doctor, her lawyer, her accountant... were they deluded and schemers - YES, were they granting the wishes of a very sane and amazing woman - YES. I found this title while picking up Secret Rooms, another tale of old family saga and secrets... well worth the time for both.

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