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Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune Hardcover – 10 Sep 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (10 Sept. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345534522
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345534521
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 3.4 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 383,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'An evocative and rollicking read, part social history, part hothouse mystery, part grand guignol.' - The Daily Beast 'Empty Mansions is a dazzlement and a wonder... This is an enchanting journey into the mysteries of the mind, a true-to-life exploration of strangeness and delight.' - Pat Conroy 'Empty Mansions reveals this mysterious family in sumptuous detail.' - John Berendt 'An amazing story of profligate wealth, one so wild that 'American aspiration' doesn't begin to describe its excesses ... An outsized tale of rags-to-riches prosperity' - The New York Times 'Empty Mansions is at once an engrossing portrait of a forgotten American heiress and a fascinating meditation on the crosswinds of extreme wealth. Hugely entertaining and well researched, Empty Mansions is a fabulous read.' - Amanda Foreman --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Bill Dedman introduced the public to heiress Huguette Clark and her empty mansions through his compelling series of narratives for NBC, which became the most popular feature in the history of its news website, topping 110 million page views. He received the 1989 Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting while writing for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and has written for The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe. Paul Clark Newell Jr, a cousin of Huguette Clark, has researched the Clark family history for twenty years, sharing many conversations with Huguette about her life and family. He once received a rare private tour of Bellosguardo, her mysterious estate overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nicola Mansfield on 4 Jun. 2014
Format: Paperback
I have Asperger's and this is my take Huguette Clark. I absolutely thoroughly enjoyed this book which is a biography of two people, father and daughter, while also being a history of the Gilded Age and a brief overview of the 20th century. I had heard of Ms Clark when she was in the news and concern was raised about whether she may be a case of elder-abuse by those in charge of her financial and medical care, since she was a reclusive centenarian. I then forgot about her until I read a few reviews of this book. Reading those couple of thought-provoking reviews it crossed my mind as to whether Huguette might have been Aspergian; did she have Asperger's.

I thought of this because I myself have Asperger's, am a loner and for a certain period of my life was house-bound by choice. My reading interests (naturally?) involve recluses and mental health and historically I'm well-read in the Victorian age and early 20th century. Thus, could not pass up this book.

Starting off historically we are given the story of W.A. Clark's life, born 1839, a copper baron and once possibly the richest man in America. The history follows his life, then his second wife, 40 years his junior and their two children, progressing on with his youngest daughter Huguette who lived until the ripe old age of 104 and died in 2011. It absolutely amazes me that the two people, father and daughter, only two generations of a family cover the time period from the 8th President of the US of A, Van Duren to the 44th President, Obama. Hugette herself barely escaped two world disasters, the sinking of the Titanic and the attacks on the World Trade Center. Fascinating!

I don't feel Huguette had a sad life at all.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Ball TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 Oct. 2013
Format: Hardcover
Huguette Clark lived to the age of 104, a life "long enough to narrowly escape both the Titanic's sinking and the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center", as the authors put it. Her father, the 'Copper King' W.A. Clark, in his day as wealthy and as well-known as any Carnegie, Rockefeller or Vanderbilt, was in his late sixties when she was born, their combined lives stretching from the American Civil War to the modern day.

This is a fascinating tale of Gilded Age wealth, as ostentatious and glamorous as any story in such an age can be. From the immense mansion in Manhattan to the fabulous estate in Santa Barbara, Huguette lived a life of almost unimaginable luxury - Monet paintings, Cartier jewels, diamonds, Stradivarius violins, estates in France. And yet she died in a small shabby hotel room in 2011, rich to the end, obsessed with cartoons and dolls, gifting millions to her nurses, her accountant, her lawyer, the children of employees and friends, whilst retreating from the world, ignoring her family, and refusing to sell any of her five homes, some of which she had not set foot in since the Second World War. After her death a vicious court battle broke out between her disinherited family, many of whom had never even met her, and the beneficiaries named in her will, primarily her dedicated nurse of twenty-plus years, who stood to inherit millions in addition to the more $30 million she had already received during Huguette's life.

Whether Huguette was mentally ill and being unduly influenced by her advisors, or whether she simply enjoyed making people happy, of using her wealth to help the people she cared about, of using her money in whatever way she wanted, the authors leave up to the reader.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Cheryl M-M TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 22 Sept. 2013
Format: Hardcover
There is so much info in this book that it is hard to know where to start.
At this very moment in time there are two groups of people fighting over Huguette's money. One side is made up of living relatives (a lot of them) and the other side consists of her lawyers, caregivers and charities. The relatives haven't seen the heiress for decades, some of them literally haven't laid eyes on her in half a century.
Not one of them checked to see if she was alright or even alive. That might sound strange but being the recluse she was it would have been an easy feat to keep a premature death hidden. All contact to family members was directed via her lawyer and there was no way to contact her directly.
Just before she entered the hospital, which was twenty years prior to her death, she was extremely ill and parts of her face were cancer ridden. I will spare you the gory details. Needless to say this was an old woman in her eighties who should have been in care or being cared for. Not one family member bothered to check on her.
Huguette enters the hospital and is then subjected to what I can only call financial blackmail, thievery and completely unethical behaviour at the hands of her carers, the hospital and board of directors of the hospital.
When a nurse or caregiver is receiving money and gifts to the tune of 20 million dollars then that person is morally and ethically corrupt. There are many examples in the book most of which just had me shaking my head and I have to ask why there was no person there looking out for her best interests?
She spent her entire lifetime writing giving away money to anyone and everyone. That generousity was abused by many people.
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