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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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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 (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 494,587 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.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 Feb. 2014
Format: Hardcover
While house-hunting online, author Bill Dedman came across a mysterious real estate listing: a $24 million house in New Canaan.

That was the beginning of a search for the life story of Huguette Clark, whose own employees weren't entirely sure she was alive. It's a big challenge for any writer -- telling the story of an heiress whose life is more mystery than verified fact -- and with the help of her nephew Paul Clark Newell Jr., Dedman brings alive the last embers of the Gilded Age.

After investigating the for-sale mansion -- which had not been inhabited since 1951 -- Dedman became intrigued by the story of the woman who owned it. Huguette Clark was 103 years old, possibly dead, and had not lived in her expensive mansions for many decades. She had not been photographed in decades, and was so fiercely private that many of her own relatives could not contact her.

But as buried as it is, there is a story behind Huguette Clark -- she was the youngest child of multimillionaire Senator W.A. Clark, grew up in an absurdly large mansion, debuted in the flapper era, married briefly, hobnobbed with royalty, and became increasingly reclusive and eccentric as her life wound on. Eventually she moved into a hospital for many years, despite being in excellent health, and died after a century of life, leaving behind a will as weird as she was.

A writer of nonfiction needs to do at least one of two things: bring the story to life as a writer, and bring factual information to light for the reader. Dedman succeeds in both things -- he resurrects countless ragged scraps of information and patches them together into a cohesive story, and he brings to life the shadowy, forgotten moments of Clark's life.
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