Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Empty Mansions

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman, 456 pages

When Huguette Clark died in 2012 at age 104, she left behind an astounding art collection, a Stradivarius violin, an extensive collection of masterfully created dollhouses, two massive Fifth Avenue apartments, a mansion in New Canaan, Connecticut, and a large oceanfront estate in Santa Barbara, California. But with the exception of a few close aides and medical staff, the reclusive multimillionaire had not been seen in almost 50 years and had not visited any of those beautiful residences in at least 20 years.

Empty Mansions details Huguette Clark's long life, from her world-traveling childhood as the daughter of copper king and land baron W.A. Clark (once estimated to be worth almost as much as Rockefeller and more than Carnegie) to her extremely short-lived marriage in the 1920s to her quiet adult life spent living with her mother in New York City. It's a fascinating story of the extremely wealthy, and Dedman does an excellent job of spinning out the tale in an engaging manner. As I listened to this book (wonderfully read by Kimberly Farr), my only concern was that the very private Huguette would have been furious that her life, which she had worked so hard to keep out of the public eye, was being laid out for all to see and hear. If you can get past that guilt nugget, however, you'll find this a fascinating tale.

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