Book Review: Empty Mansions

17 09 2013

Title: Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great America17704903n Fortune

Author: Bill Dedman, Paul Clarke Newell, Jr.

Genre: Non-fiction, history/bio

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Available:  Now

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Summary: The author discovers a number of deserted mansions around the country, operational with staff, but vacant.  He discovers that the owner is Huguette Clark – the last surviving daughter of W.A. Clark – and early 20th century millionaire whose story has been mostly lost to modern history.  The book tells the tale of Clark’s climb to the top, and how his daughter turned from a wealthy socialite to a recluse who collects empty mansions.

I find the forgotten stories of American History particularly fascinating.  This is one of those stories.  Clark lost his chance to be remembered in history with the Rockefellers and Carnegies by staying outside the realm of philanthropy.  Yet during his lifetime, he was just as wealthy – and his fortune was on display everywhere he went.  He builds one of the most obscene mansions in the heart of New York City where he raises his youngest children (including Huguette) with his second wife.  It was a golden age.

But the story takes a turn – as wealthy Huguette turns from her life as a socialite to that of a recluse.  Slowly, gradually she fades from the public record.  The author does a great job of giving readers the story and asking questions about who was protecting the rights of  Ms. Clark?  Were there people who were taking advantage of her and her fortune?  Dedman and Newell do a great job of bringing this story to the eyes of the public.

While this type of history read is usually right up my alley, I never really connected with Ms. Clark and her tale.  I had a very hard time finishing it and really skimmed some of the parts on Huguette.

Recommend for: Fans of 20th Century History.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing an advanced readers copy in exchange for my review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

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