Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale
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#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 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. 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.

Review

“An amazing story of profligate wealth . . . an outsized tale of rags-to-riches prosperity.” The New York Times
 
“A fascinating investigation into the haunting true-life tale of reclusive heiress Huguette Clark.” People

“An exhaustively researched, well-written account . . . a blood-boiling expose [that] will make you angry and will make you sad.” The Seattle Times
 
“An evocative and rollicking read, part social history, part hothouse mystery, part grand guignol.” The Daily Beast
 
“A childlike, self-exiled eccentric, [Huguette Clark] is the sort of of subject susceptible to a biography of broad strokes, which makes Empty Mansions, the first full-length account of her life, impressive for its delicacy and depth.” Town & Country
 
“One of those incredible stories that you didn’t even know existed. It filled a void.” —Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

“So well written . . . such a gripping, gripping story.” —Bill Goldstein, NBC 4 New York
 
“A compelling account of what happened to the Clark family and its fortune . . . a tremendous feat.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch
 
“A fascinating story.” Today
 
“Meticulous and absorbing.” Bloomberg Businessweek
 
“Brilliantly researched, tough-minded, and fair . . . a fascinating read.” Santa Barbara Independent

“Riveting . . . deliciously scandalous . . . a thrilling study of the responsibilities and privileges that come with great wealth.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“A spellbinding mystery.” Booklist
 
“Enlightening.” Library Journal

Empty Mansions is a dazzlement and a wonder. Bill Dedman and Paul Newell unravel a great character, Huguette Clark, a shy soul akin to Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird—if Boo’s father had been as rich as Rockefeller. This is an enchanting journey into the mysteries of the mind, a true-to-life exploration of strangeness and delight.”— Pat Conroy, author of The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son
 
Empty Mansions is at once an engrossing portrait of a forgotten American heiress and a fascinating meditation on the crosswinds of extreme wealth. Hugely entertaining and well researched, Empty Mansions is a fabulous read.” —Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire
 
“In Empty Mansions, a unique American character emerges from the shadows. Through deep research and evocative writing, Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr., have expertly captured the arc of history covered by the remarkable Clark family, while solving a deeply personal mystery of wealth and eccentricity.” —Jon Meacham, author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
 
“Who knew? Though virtually unknown today, W. A. Clark was one of the fifty richest Americans ever—copper baron, railroad builder, art collector, U.S. senator, and world-class scoundrel. Yet his daughter and heiress Huguette became a bizarre recluse. Empty Mansions reveals this mysterious family in sumptuous detail.” —John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
 
Empty Mansions is a mesmerizing tale that delivers all the ingredients of a top-notch mystery novel. But there is nothing fictional about this true, fully researched story of a fascinating and reclusive woman from an era of fabulous American wealth. Empty Mansions is a delicious read—once you start it, you will find it hard to put down.” —Kate Alcott, bestselling author of The Dressmaker
 
“More than a biography, more than a mystery, Empty Mansions is a real-life American Bleak House, an arresting tale about misplaced souls sketched on a canvas that stretches from coast to coast, from riotous mining camps to the gilded dwellings of the very, very rich.” —John A. Farrell, author of Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned

About the Author

Bill Dedman introduced the public to heiress Huguette Clark and her empty mansions through his compelling series of narratives for NBC, which became the most popular feature in the history of its news website, topping 110 million page views. He received the 1989 Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting while writing for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe.
 
Paul Clark Newell, Jr., a cousin of Huguette Clark, has researched the Clark family history for twenty years, sharing many conversations with Huguette about her life and family. He received a rare private tour of Bellosguardo, her mysterious estate overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

From day one at Doctors Hospital, Huguette had private nurses twenty-four hours a day. The nurse on the day shift, assigned randomly to Huguette in the spring of 1991, was Hadassah Peri. She would work for her “Madame” for twenty years, becoming, it seems probable, the wealthiest registered nurse in the world.
 
Doctors Hospital was not the place that a New Yorker with a lifethreatening illness normally would select. It was better known as a fashionable treatment center for the well-to-do, a society hospital, a great place for a face-lift or for drying out. Michael Jackson had been a patient, as had Marilyn Monroe, James Thurber, Clare Boothe Luce, and Eugene O’Neill. The fourteen-story brick structure on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, between Eighty-Seventh and Eighty-Eighth streets by a bend in the East River, gave the impression of being an apartment building or hotel, with a hair salon offering private appointments in patient rooms and a comfortable dining room where patients could order from the wine list if the doctor allowed. When it opened in 1929, it had no wards and no interns, allowed no charity care, and included hotel accommodations for family members of patients. In its early days, it was often used as a long-term residential hotel or spa, and finally in the 1970s it added modern coronary units and intensive care.
 
Huguette checked in to a room on the eleventh floor with a lovely view down to a city park and Gracie Mansion, the Federal-style home that is the official residence of the mayor of New York.
 
After living mostly alone at home for so many years, now Huguette was in a hospital with its constant noises and staff coming and going. At first she was a difficult patient, swathed in sheets and refusing to let anyone see her. A nurse wrote in the chart that she was “like a homeless person—no clothes, not in touch with the world, had not seen a doctor for 20 years, and threw everyone out of the room.”
 
A week into her stay, Huguette was evaluated by a social worker, who filled out the standard initial assessment. The patient, just short of age eighty-five, was scheduled for surgery to remove basal cell tumors and to reconstruct her lip, right cheek, and right eyelid. She had been “managing poorly at home—reclusive—not eating recently” and was dehydrated. Her only support system was her friend Suzanne Pierre, “helping with her affairs,” and a maid—no family. Her mental status was always awake and alert, but she was skittish: “Patient refused to speak with social worker. Patient has not been to doctor in many years—had refused medications in past. Patient anxious and uncooperative at times.”
 
Her plans after treatment? “Spoke with friend, Mrs. Pierre—feels patient will need convalescent care in facility but does not want to go to nursing home which she feels would be depressing. . . . Patient may need to go to a hotel with a nurse to recuperate.”
As for financial problems, “none noted.”
 
Huguette did not move on to a hotel. Within just over two months, she was an indefinite patient, a tenant, with Doctors Hospital charging her $829 a day. Eventually the rent rose to $1,200, or more than $400,000 a year.
Huguette had a series of surgeries in 1991 and 1992, with Dr. Jack Rudick removing malignant tumors and making initial repairs to her face. She was healthy, though she still needed a bit of plastic surgery, especially on her right eyelid. “It is not necessary,” she told her doctors. “I am not having any surgery. I don’t like needles.” She was not badly disfigured by the cancer. And there might have been another reason, Dr. Singman speculated. “This she has steadfastly put off,” he wrote in her chart in 1996, “I presume to avoid the final treatment and then possible discharge home.”
 
A board-certified specialist in internal medicine, cardiology, and geriatrics, Dr. Singman assured her that she could have round-the-clock nurses at home, and he would visit daily. “I had strongly urged that she go home,” he said. She was, however, “perfectly happy, content, to remain in the situation she was in.” When one of the first night nurses kept urging her to move back home, Huguette fired her. In the end, Dr. Singman accepted her decision, writing in her chart in 1996, “I fervently believe that this woman would not have survived if she had been discharged from the hospital.”
 
Dr. Singman’s backup, internist Dr. John Wolff, said he agreed. Huguette “was so content and so secure in the environment. There’s no question in my mind that’s really where she chose to be.” He brought her flowers on her birthday and liked to stop in. “She was a lovely woman, and we would talk. Her mind was clear. There was no confusion about her. Very warm, gracious, sweet, gentle, interested in other people, independent, guarded.”
 
Huguette was hardly ever sick. She refused to take a flu shot—she didn’t believe in medicine, she told her nurses, and felt that “nature should take its course.” Her only persistent medical issues were mild: osteopenia, a decrease of calcium in the bones not advanced enough to be called osteoporosis; a slightly elevated systolic blood pressure (150/80); and two nutrition issues, a mild electrolyte disorder and a mild salt depletion. Her illnesses passed quickly, usually with her refusing antibiotics. She had a bout of pneumonia, the seasonal flu, and a surgery to check out a suspicious lump that was benign.
 
In other words, from age eighty-five to well past one hundred, a stage when most people need elaborate pillboxes marked with the days of the week, Huguette was remarkably healthy, requiring no daily medications other than vitamins. Yet she was living in a hospital.
···
Dr. Singman said Huguette at first was “extremely frightened” of new people. She refused most medical treatments unless her day nurse, Hadassah, was there to hold her hand and talk calmingly. Hadassah and Huguette had a bond from the beginning, with Hadassah able to read Huguette’s feelings and help her overcome her distress. When they couldn’t reach Hadassah, the other nurses would sometimes pretend that they were talking with her on the phone, telling Huguette that Hadassah said that she had to eat now or she should allow them to check her blood pressure.
 
“You have to convince her,” explained Hadassah later. A small, compact woman with warm, dark eyes and black hair flecked with gray, Hadassah described patience as the key to her chemistry with Huguette. “You have to explain it to her, you have to educate her who is coming, what is that for—at times we have some difficulty.”
 
Hadassah Peri was born Gicela Tejada Oloroso in May 1950 to a politically prominent and eccentric family in the Philippine fishing town of Sapian. Gicela received a nursing degree before immigrating to the United States in 1972. She worked first at a hospital in Arkansas, then moved to New York in 1980. She passed her New York exams as a licensed practical nurse, then a registered nurse, and started working as a private-duty nurse. Born a Roman Catholic, she had married an Israeli immigrant and New York taxi driver, Daniel Peri, in 1982, converting to his Orthodox Judaism and using the name Hadassah Peri, although she didn’t change her name legally until 2011. Even today, she is a bit embarrassed about her English, though it’s quite good, despite some confusion over pronouns: “Madame love his favorite shoes.”
 
When she was assigned to Huguette, the Peris owned a small apartment in Brooklyn. They had three children born in the 1980s, two boys and a girl.
 
Private-duty nurses are temp workers, always hoping for a long-term assignment. Taking a day off means having a replacement nurse, one who might step into the regular role. So despite the Orthodox prohibition against working on Saturday, and despite having three school-age children, for many years Hadassah worked for Huguette from eight a.m. to eight p.m., twelve hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. She was up and out of the house before her children left for school and home close to bedtime. It would be several years before she took a day off. Hadassah was paid $30 an hour, $2,520 a week, $131,040 a year, but she described her self-sacrifice for Huguette as extreme. “I give my life to Madame,” Hadassah said.
···
The private hospital room was perfectly ordinary, a small room for one patient with a hospital bed, recliner, chest of drawers, bedside table, small refrigerator, TV, radio, closet, small bathroom. “She like a simple room,” Hadassah said.
 
Once an outdoorsy youth, Huguette now didn’t want any daylight. The cancer had left her eyelid unable to close properly. She kept her shades drawn, though she often asked her nurses about the weather, and she did look out on the Fourth of July to watch the fireworks. The room wasn’t entirely dark, with an overhead light usually on, and Huguette had a reading lamp as well. Drawings by the nurses’ children and doctors’ grandchildren sometimes were hung on the walls. The door was closed, and Huguette would see only the visitors she knew. Dr. Singman called it a cocoon, a safe place, but not unpleasant.
 
The doctor said he asked Huguette once to see a psychiatrist, not because he thought she was mentally ill but because he thought talking with another doctor might help persuade her to return home. She declined to discuss it, and neither the doctor nor the hospital ever mentioned it again.
 
“The woman was an eccentric of the first order,” Dr. Singman said, but “she had perfect knowledge of her surroundings, she had excellent memory . . . a mind like a steel trap. . . . At that point she was perfectly happy, content, to remain in the situation she was in. . . . The hospital setting . . . was a form of security blanket for her. . . . I didn’t think there was going to be any great help from a psychiatrist to change her attitude about what she was doing. . . . The woman was perfectly conversant at all times, never demonstrated any . . . disturbances of her mind. . . . I didn’t think her behavior was that of one suffering from a psychiatric illness.” At most, said her doctor, she showed “eccentricity and neurotic behavior”—not exactly distinguishing characteristics in New York City.
 
Huguette dressed in hospital gowns, hardly ever wearing her clothes from home. When she was cold—and she was often cold—she would wear layered sweaters, always white button-front cashmere cardigans from Scotland, her only hint of luxury.
···
The daily routine began with Huguette drinking two cups of warm milk that the night nurse, Geraldine Lehane Coffey, had left for her. Hadassah would arrive with The New York Times. (Huguette always read the obituaries, as older people do, followed the progress of wars and weather emergencies, and delighted in finding stories about Japan and royalty.) Hadassah would greet Huguette and give her kisses. Huguette could walk to the bathroom by herself and give herself a sponge bath. Then Huguette would blow into the incentive spirometer, the little plastic tube where each deep breath makes the plastic ball rise, which helped ward off pneumonia. Huguette could make the ball go up five times, sometimes eight times. She would do coughing and deep-breathing exercises. Then it was time for breakfast: oatmeal and eggs, pureed, and her French coffee with hot milk, or café au lait.
 
Most of Huguette’s diet was liquid, taken through a straw because of the wound to her lip. Dinner was usually a soup that Hadassah had made at home, such as potato leek, made with eggs to provide protein. At night she would ask the nurse for a warm glass of milk before bed. Between meals, she drank Ensure nutritional drinks. For a special treat, Madame Pierre brought her steamed artichokes or asparagus with a rich hollandaise sauce, made in the classic French fashion with egg yolks and fresh butter, because Huguette said she couldn’t stand hospital food.
 
After breakfast, it was time for Huguette’s morning walk, three or four times around the room. She and Hadassah called this their “walk in Central Park.” Then it was personal time for Huguette. She made phone calls on her Princess telephone with the lighted dial, calling Madame Pierre sometimes three to five times a day. “Mrs. Clark liked to speak French with my grandmother,” said Suzanne’s granddaughter Kati Despretz Cruz, “because she didn’t want her nurses to understand what they were talking about.”
 
Huguette called her coordinator of art projects, Caterina Marsh, in California to make changes in a Japanese castle. She read The New York Times and followed the financial markets on CNN. “She would watch the stock,” said one of the night nurses, Primrose Mohiuddin, “and she would say to me, ‘Oh, NASDAQ has gone down. That’s terrible!’ ” She paid particular attention to news of presidents and royalty. “When President Clinton was in trouble,” her assistant Chris Sattler said, “she was asking Mrs. Pierre and me about the Monica Lewinsky thing. She didn’t get it, and she wanted us to explain it to her. And we sort of let it go, if you know what I mean.”
 
She kept a few personal items in shopping bags on the floor by the window. Her address book and recent correspondence. A deck of cards. Dr. Singman taught her solitaire and bought her a book of rules of card games, which she used to learn many variations.
 
Because Huguette kept information about herself tightly controlled, on a need-to-know basis, Dr. Singman knew little of her art projects and her correspondence with friends in France. To his view, solitaire was her main activity. “She was a wiz,” he said. “She could shuffle a deck like I haven’t seen anybody except in a gambling house.”
 
She no longer painted but would watch her videotapes of cartoons, studying the animation and enjoying the stories. She liked to make flip books of still images captured from videotapes, so she could see the animated stories in her hands. Her favorite cartoons were The Flintstones, The Jetsons, The Smurfs, and a Japanese series called Maya the Bee. These cartoons came in particularly handy when Huguette tired of a conversation with a doctor or hospital official. She’d start up The Smurfs as if to say, No, I’ve made up my mind.
 
And she would look at her photo albums, which contained snapshots from her early days with her father, mother, and sister. She’d show her nurses and doctors the photos: Andrée on a bicycle. Huguette on a horse at château de Petit-Bourg outside Paris. (She told them how the Germans had burned the house down.) The girls visiting their father’s copper mine in Butte. One of herself at her First Communion, and also surrounded by dolls on the porch of her father’s first mansion, in Butte, where she remembered the pansies on the stoop. Anna smiling as she sat on a park bench during a summer sojourn in Greenwich, Connecticut. Huguette’s Aunt Amelia, her mother’s sister, standing on the grand marble staircase at the old Clark mansion on Fifth Avenue. The rooms and gardens at Bellosguardo. Anna and W.A. on the beach at Trouville, laughing. Little Huguette in her Indian costume and headdress, hugging her father.
 
She would talk, Hadassah said, mostly about “her dear father, her dear mother, her dear sister, Aunt Amelia.” Huguette liked to tell the nurses about the summers at the beach in Trouville, how her father built the beautiful Columbia Gardens so the people of Butte could have something to enjoy, how Duke Kahanamoku carried her on his shoulders on a surfboard. And she would share somberly how her sister had died on the trip to Maine. “She talked dearly about that,” Hadassah said. “Talked all the time about her sister and parents. Yes, that affected her very much.”
 
Huguette’s eyesight had declined, but she was able to read with eyeglasses and then a magnifying glass until past age one hundred. Her hearing was poor in the right ear, but she could hear well out of her left if one talked right at it, and she refused a hearing aid. She didn’t deny that her hearing was poor, but she didn’t want anything put into her ears, nothing like her mother’s primitive squawk box. Hadassah bought a telephone with big numbers and adjustable volume, but Huguette refused to use it, saying she could hear fine with the regular phone.
 
Doctors and nurses described Huguette as a woman who knew her own mind. “She was remarkably clear,” said Karen Gottlieb, a floor nurse who brought her warm milk at bedtime. “Clear in her wants, and things she didn’t want. Yes meant yes, and no meant no.” Gottlieb said that she never saw any family try to visit, that Huguette’s real family seemed to be Hadassah.
 
The regular hospital staff rarely saw Huguette. One exception was in 2000, when Hadassah herself was in the hospital for back surgery. Huguette arranged for Hadassah to be in a room just down the hall, two or three doors away. Huguette then went to visit Hadassah, dressing up in street clothes and walking down the hall. She wore her favorite Daniel Green shoes.
 
“That’s one day everybody in the floor almost dropped dead,” Hadassah said. “They saw Madame coming out of the door with heel shoes.”
···
Hadassah described Huguette as “a beautiful lady. Very loving. Very respectful. Love people. Very refined lady. Very cultured. Good heart— good soul and good heart. Never hurt anybody. Very, very generous, Madame.”
 
Dr. Singman said he saw that Hadassah and Huguette were very close. “Hadassah was very good to her and was a good nurse for her and worked hard with her.”
 
Huguette’s first question in the morning would be “When is Hadassah coming?” She would call nearly every night to make sure Hadassah got home safely and to be reassured that Hadassah would be coming in the next day. Sometimes she’d call just as Hadassah got home, and the answering machine would pick up first. Here is a recording from about 2007, when Huguette was 101. We hear Huguette’s sweet, high-pitched French, and Hadassah’s Filipino accent, shouting to make sure she is heard.
 
Hadassah: Madame, I love you.
Huguette: I love you, too. Good night to you.
Hadassah: Have a good night.
Huguette: Have a good night.
Hadassah: Thank you, Madame.
Huguette: Will I see you tomorrow?
Hadassah: Yes, Madame.
Huguette: Thank you.
Hadassah: I love you.
Huguette: I love you, too.
Hadassah: Good night.
Huguette: Good night, Hadassah.

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jg
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
trip back in time only to end in the present.
Reviewed in the United States on June 9, 2016
What I loved most about Empty Mansions was the history. As interesting & puzzling as it may be to have an elderly lady happily living in a hospital by choice, the history of the family, trying to imagine owning paintings by artists from whom you almost exclusively, see... See more
What I loved most about Empty Mansions was the history. As interesting & puzzling as it may be to have an elderly lady happily living in a hospital by choice, the history of the family, trying to imagine owning paintings by artists from whom you almost exclusively, see reproductions, is a world unto itself.

Then there was Huguette. What I found sad was the way the hospital hit her up for cash, yet made fun of her eccentricity. By all accounts, she was a kind person. She may have been eccentric, yet she did not abuse anyone who came in to contact with her, and by all accounts, she did provide for those she cared about.

Empty Mansions does raise questions on ethics, whether it be the lawyer, accountant, the hospital... Even her own relatives who challenged her will. I was glad to see an investigation to determine whether elder abuse had occurred—under the circumstances, it makes complete sense. That said, I was angered by the greed of her family... If one can use that term at all.

In the end, while we never receive concrete answers about how/why Ms. Clark was so isolated, it''s almost beside the point. Perhaps most fascinating is this one woman outliving her family by an extraordinary number of years. At nearly 105 at the time of her death, she saw more of history than most people. While I''d have loved to see a diary or journal of some kind to possibly understand Huguette''s mindset, as an artist myself, the mystery is also part of the beauty. Nothing is necessarily clean & wrapped in a bow. We can choose to interpret the words on the page in multiple ways. I can''t help but imagine that although her privacy was violated following her death, in the end, her story is that of an artist, through & through. Much is still left to the imagination, a world we may create. Perhaps that is the true gift the authors deliver to the readers, as well as Huguette in the end.
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Clyde J.
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A puzzling lady.
Reviewed in the United States on January 2, 2018
This book is well researched and spans the lives of W. A. Clark, his second wife, Anna, and their surviving daughter Huguette. It is an inside look at the making and spending of an inconceivable fortune. It is also introduces the reader to the fairy-like, in many ways,... See more
This book is well researched and spans the lives of W. A. Clark, his second wife, Anna, and their surviving daughter Huguette. It is an inside look at the making and spending of an inconceivable fortune. It is also introduces the reader to the fairy-like, in many ways, Huguette who lived her life as she chose to live it.
Yes, she was very generous to those she cared about, and to some charitable causes. However, she could have done so much, to better the world, with the millions she gave to her private nurse, doctors who were, IMO, taking advantage of Huguette''s fears, and eccentricities.
At the end of reading, I don''t feel sad for Huguette. She isolated herself so that she didn''t have to deal with anything that might make her feel uncomfortable or sad. She only wanted to think about things that were beautiful, things that made her happy to do. In that sense, she seemed selfish and immature.
I think that Huguette Clark''s life disproves the adage that, "Money can''t buy happiness." I believe that she was absolutely content with the restricted world she created, no matter how stunted it was. I did not find myself admiring Huguette, despite her generosity to those with whom she was loyal.
30 people found this helpful
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5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Haunting and Unforgettable
Reviewed in the United States on April 29, 2021
When I read the description of this book, it sounded interesting, but I never expected to become so fully immersed in this world created from fact which is truly stranger than fiction. I am a recluse myself and found myself drawn to another recluse, albeit one with a fairy... See more
When I read the description of this book, it sounded interesting, but I never expected to become so fully immersed in this world created from fact which is truly stranger than fiction. I am a recluse myself and found myself drawn to another recluse, albeit one with a fairy tale life unlike my own.

The writers have done a wonderful job of chronicling nearly 200 years of history in America and Europe, from the Wild West, through the Gilded Age, the Jazz Age to 21st century New York - seen through the prism of W. A. Clark and his family, especially Huguette .

In addition to this absorbing story, the authors have many links at the end of the book where you can see many of the treasures and oddities this family collected, as well as family photos and tours of the famous Empty Mansions.

I read it straight through in one sitting, so absorbed I could not put it down. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys cultural history, biographies of unique people, and real life “peculiarities.”
9 people found this helpful
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bibliogrammie
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Montanan Reports in
Reviewed in the United States on October 9, 2016
As a Montanan I found this a wonderful and enlightening read. Here in our state we have copious amounts of the historical doings of the Copper Kings as well as the physical remnants of that time. However there is little that tells us of their posterity and surely Hugette... See more
As a Montanan I found this a wonderful and enlightening read. Here in our state we have copious amounts of the historical doings of the Copper Kings as well as the physical remnants of that time. However there is little that tells us of their posterity and surely Hugette Clark is among the most interesting. As I walk the streets of Butte I will remember "Hug". Columbia Gardens is only a memory, unfortunately but the mine heads still stand to remind us of the days when copper made kings. If you have never visited Butte/Anaconda area, you should put it on your bucket list. But go after boning up on the history. It was one of the most fascinating periods in Montana history. The city has been named as a historical site. And there is much to explore. This book was well researched and well written and should be part of your ''re-visit research.
37 people found this helpful
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2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Hard to Follow
Reviewed in the United States on January 23, 2019
Instead of reading like a novel, this book reads like a history textbook. It is based on the timeline of real estate transactions that overlap in many instances. It''s a little hard to follow unless you really pay attention to the dates. There is no development of the... See more
Instead of reading like a novel, this book reads like a history textbook. It is based on the timeline of real estate transactions that overlap in many instances. It''s a little hard to follow unless you really pay attention to the dates. There is no development of the Huguette''s personality. There are suggestions that she may have been immature on some levels while quite intelligent on other levels. There is really no medical or psychological explanation regarding her behavior, just theories.
12 people found this helpful
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Gigi Jordan Hunter
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Unlimited
Reviewed in the United States on December 28, 2017
Why was Hugette Clark such a private person in a time of great celebrity? Her private life was just that ... private. So many of the mega - wealthy have their names and pictures splashed over the news media every day. Not Hugette. She sought solace in her apartments and... See more
Why was Hugette Clark such a private person in a time of great celebrity? Her private life was just that ... private. So many of the mega - wealthy have their names and pictures splashed over the news media every day. Not Hugette. She sought solace in her apartments and finally her hospital rooms.
She grew up knowing only wealth. Her extended family knew great wealth as well.
This family is well-known in the wealthiest social circles. After reading this book, I have formed the opinion that the extended family members weren''t seeking her fortune when they challenged her will. I believe that they wanted to bring the fraudulent takers who preyed on Hugette'' s generosity to justice. The nurse had spent enough time with her to know how to effectively manipulate an old woman. She used Hugette to get more and more money through the years. Otherwise, why would she just happen to mention that ballet lessons were expensive or that tuition was increasing at her children''s schools?
The story is well written. The subject is intriguing. For those of us who are not extremely wealthy, this is a look inside a totally different world. Spending thousands of dollars in a single piece of jewelry is beyond me. This is a lifestyle that most of us only dream about.
6 people found this helpful
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3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Intriguing
Reviewed in the United States on January 30, 2017
I wanted to read about this mysterious woman when I read a summary of the book. It was such an interesting look at a family that was so influential in building America as we know it, yet were forgotten due to their own desire to retreat from the public. It is also an... See more
I wanted to read about this mysterious woman when I read a summary of the book. It was such an interesting look at a family that was so influential in building America as we know it, yet were forgotten due to their own desire to retreat from the public. It is also an amazing example of how money can provide motivation for so many different types of behavior. I had to read short snippets at a time since my inability to relate to Mrs Clark''s spending just blew my mind and I became frustrated and sometimes disgusted with the waste that it seemed to be. But I also realized that for someone who had no choice in her family or financial status, she found ways to make the best of her world and to enjoy it as long as she could. So many people benefited from her life, not just her financial gifts. We are all just trying to be happy.
13 people found this helpful
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C Cox
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Outstanding Non-fiction
Reviewed in the United States on January 9, 2017
The life story of Huguette Clark is truly incredible. What should have been a joyful time, filled with parties, travel and ease, for some unknown reason was instead reclusive and sad. What impressed me most about Clark''s life is in spite of her self-imposed isolation she... See more
The life story of Huguette Clark is truly incredible. What should have been a joyful time, filled with parties, travel and ease, for some unknown reason was instead reclusive and sad. What impressed me most about Clark''s life is in spite of her self-imposed isolation she remained interested in the lives of others. This is illustrated by her many phone calls and letters to her family, friends and acquaintances as well as gifts of toys for children and extravagant gifts of money to many people. Even her collection of the Japanese dolls and the houses she ordered show an interest in others. I believe there is a lesson to be from there. Perhaps her connection to others extended her life. Definitely an interesting read. I remember her story in the news around the time of her death.
8 people found this helpful
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Top reviews from other countries

Mr F Blurton
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
the dull lives of the very rich
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 27, 2020
an absorbing story of massive wealth, waste and greed. None of the characters are likeable, or even have much personality, but the houses, estates and the secondary players revolving around the action keep us interested. In the end I felt quite sorry for Huguette, an ageing...See more
an absorbing story of massive wealth, waste and greed. None of the characters are likeable, or even have much personality, but the houses, estates and the secondary players revolving around the action keep us interested. In the end I felt quite sorry for Huguette, an ageing lady doing her best to maintain her wealth and dignity in the face of an army of vultures. If she wanted to spend the last 20 years of her life in a hospital why shouldn''t she?
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babiafi
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
but the book does a great job of covering the family history - and outlining ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 20, 2016
This is a fab read exploring the life of Huguette Clark, an elusive heiress with more money than most of us can even imagine. Shying away from the limelight, Huguette lived over a 100 years - yet most of her employees and extended family had never seen her, and for the last...See more
This is a fab read exploring the life of Huguette Clark, an elusive heiress with more money than most of us can even imagine. Shying away from the limelight, Huguette lived over a 100 years - yet most of her employees and extended family had never seen her, and for the last decades of her life couldn''t even be sure if she were alive or dead... I had never heard of W.A. or Huguette Clark before reading this, but the book does a great job of covering the family history - and outlining how W.A. became so fabulously wealthy. Huguette''s life comes across as equal parts mysterious and tragic and, I suppose, just goes to show that money really can''t buy you everything.
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Tyneside Gal
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
possibly somewhere on the autism scale and lost without her family but she seemed happy with such a little life
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 22, 2014
This book has everything; money by the truckload, truly fabulous stuff and people who couldn''t really appreciate any of it. Both Huguette and her mother were shy, sensitive souls whose way of dealing with life was to make it small, so that they could cope with it. Huguette...See more
This book has everything; money by the truckload, truly fabulous stuff and people who couldn''t really appreciate any of it. Both Huguette and her mother were shy, sensitive souls whose way of dealing with life was to make it small, so that they could cope with it. Huguette was a kind and generous person with an artistic nature, possibly somewhere on the autism scale and lost without her family but she seemed happy with such a little life. Inevitably, being America, many of those around her took advantage of her generosity and by and large, she was happy to give. A really interesting, thought-provoking read from beginning to end.
2 people found this helpful
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Val Robson
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book - it was well written and a ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 16, 2015
I really enjoyed this book - it was well written and a very interesting and fascinating story. This span of this lady''s life and that of her father is just quite incredible. It made me want to Google more about the case when I had finished the book to see what had happened...See more
I really enjoyed this book - it was well written and a very interesting and fascinating story. This span of this lady''s life and that of her father is just quite incredible. It made me want to Google more about the case when I had finished the book to see what had happened since the book was published. This is the first book I read on my new Kindle - was very glad to read it on my Kindle as I could easily link to characters and see where they had been in the story earlier. My only disappointment is that the faily tre was so low res that it was unusable on the Kindle version so I felt a bit short-changed over that.
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Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great investigation
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 30, 2016
This is an unusual story about someone who shut themselves away from the world despite great wealth or maybe because of it. The authors do a great job on investigating the family back to the 1800s and the source of the wealth. Recommend to anyone really
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Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale

Empty sale Mansions: The Mysterious Life lowest of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune outlet sale