Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
Bill Dedman & Paul Clark Newell, Jr.
Category: Nonfiction: Biography
Synopsis: Dedman explores the mysterious life of Huguette Clark, heir of the W.A. Clark copper mining fortune.
Date finished: 17 November 2013
Comments:This is one of those books I bought to see what all the fuss was about. It sounded interesting, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that a few hundred stellar reviews on Amazon means something. Were the reviews right? Absolutely. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was part journalism, part mystery, part gossip column. The writing was engaging and pleasant, and I believe the book was thoroughly researched and honest.
Why did Huguette Clark cut herself off from her family and become a recluse? Was she being taken advantage of by her nurse, doctors, attorney, and accountant? Did she give away millions upon millions of dollars of her own free will? Was she mentally ill? Why did she play with dolls and watch cartoons? Why did she spend the last 20 years of her life in a hospital when she wasn’t ill and had several million-dollar homes she could have lived in? These mysteries and more are left up to the reader to decide.
I tend to think Huguette was an eccentric lady who used her money to amuse herself (her doll collection and custom-made doll castles) but also gave millions of dollars away willingly. In later years, I believe her nurse and doctors took advantage of her generosity, but she likely knew what she was giving away; she often refused requests for money from others, showing she was decisive. Since she had no heirs, she probably wanted to spend her fortune herself before she died.
My one beef with the book is that it came out before the court case taken up by her 19 family members was resolved. Perhaps the case will go on another few years, but if not, I really would have prefer the authors held off on publication until all was settled. I didn’t like going through the book only to have no resolution.
Would you recommend this to a friend?Wholeheartedly.