Wednesday, February 12, 2014

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

The audiobook and Ebook are available from Library2Go and the hardcover is available here at the library.

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

Abbreviated synopsis from Goodreads: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.

 My Review:
It was very cool having actual interviews/phone calls with Huguette on the audiobook, this makes the audio version very unique but you still want to have the hardcover so you can see all the pictures of these amazing houses completely furnished but empty, so I feel like the audio version should come with a PDF of all the amazing pictures in the book because the two together are amazing.

I thought it was interesting how W.A. Clark (Huguette’s father) is not as well known as others of his time such as the Rockefellers but he was a huge Copper King in Montana and made scads of money, I also found his Montana senatorial race quite interesting too. There is a lot of background on Clark himself almost more than about Huguette but still a fascinating story.

Huguette was a fascinating woman and from the sounds of it generous to a fault, I think maybe some people did take advantage of her but I think others were truly surprised by her generosity. One thing that was never really fully explained was why she kept all these houses in pristine condition but never lived in them, it is almost like they are shrines to her family but she didn’t want to live there. I found it amazing that this woman who owned these mansions, palaces really, but she spent the last 20 years of her life living in a hospital room (no she was not sick) instead of these amazing homes boggles the mind and does make it seem like she may not have been right in the head but when you hear the phone calls with her cousin Paul she sounds pretty with it to me. She also seemed like a very caring person and once she befriended you, you were a friend for life and so were your children she would help out when needed. I felt like Huguette was just a sweetheart, in the phone calls with Paul she asks about family members and remembers so many things when Paul asks about them and seems genuinely happy to talk to him even though the end of the calls are very abrupt but I felt like she couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to take up their day talking to her not that she was being rude in the least but that people have more important things than to talk to her all day, which I feels says a lot about who she was as a person.

Narrated Kimberly Farr did a very good job at the narration and I would listen to her again.

This book is well written and I felt it was interesting all the way through, I highly recommend this book and its fascinating history.

4 Stars