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Informative,
Interesting,
Insightful

7 reviews

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
by Bill Dedman, Paul Clark Newell Jr.

Published: 2013-09-10
Hardcover : 496 pages
11 members reading this now
49 clubs reading this now
8 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 7 of 7 members
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
Janet Maslin, The New York Times • St. Louis Post-Dispatch

When Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist Bill Dedman noticed in 2009 a grand home for sale, unoccupied for nearly sixty years, he stumbled through a ...
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Introduction

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
Janet Maslin, The New York Times • St. Louis Post-Dispatch

When Pulitzer Prizewinning 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.

Praise for Empty Mansions
 
“An amazing story of profligate wealth . . . an outsized tale of rags-to-riches prosperity.”The New York Times
 
“An evocative and rollicking read, part social history, part hothouse mystery, part grand guignol.”—The Daily Beast
 
“Fascinating . . . [a] haunting true-life tale.”People
 
“One of those incredible stories that you didn’t even know existed. It filled a void.”—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show
 
“Thrilling . . . deliciously scandalous.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.

Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

Do you believe the authors should have replaced "spending" with "wasting" in the title of the book?
by CSBrearley (see profile) 05/08/15

Was Huguette agoraphobic or perhaps on the Autism spectrum, likely to have Aspbergers?
Do you think her estate was settled fairly? Did the nurse get a fair judgement?
Do you think the relatives who had never even met her, deserve any of her estate?
by MrsFlutterby (see profile) 05/09/14

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by KRoby (see profile) 08/23/17

 
by piper0922 (see profile) 03/15/17

 
  "Empty Mansions"by Carolynr (see profile) 10/31/16

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. ... (read more)

 
  "The Intriguing Rich"by bcarroll (see profile) 06/09/15

Very well researched account of Huguette Clark and her father's lives. Self made "Copper King" miner, W. A. Clark amassed a huge fortune, which is left to his daughter, Huguette, who becomes reclusive... (read more)

 
  "Empty Mansions"by CSBrearley (see profile) 05/08/15

A definitive recounting of a remarkable family.

 
  "Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune"by helenhiggs (see profile) 02/18/15

We found this book to be informative and interesting, how come we have not heard of this family before? The history of the political side and W.A.'s involvement was fascinating. We would have liked to... (read more)

 
  "Empty Mansions"by bouquet (see profile) 01/10/15

Story of a man who worked his entire lifetime to amass a fabulous fortune, being one of the richest men in the country. Most of the book deals with how that fortune was spent, and in some cases, misspent... (read more)

 
by kiwiob (see profile) 10/20/14

Fascinating story - but frustrating at times and a bit drawn out.

 
by Kerrinhp (see profile) 08/01/14

 
by clevin2 (see profile) 05/10/14

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