Empty MansionsPaul Clark Newell Jr Bill Dedman
1 January 2015
Published by Atlantic Books
28 November 2013
Published by Atlantic Books
Empty Mansions is a rich mystery of wealth and loss, connecting the Gilded Age opulence of nineteenth-century America 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?
Huguette Clark 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.
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.
Fascinating... A gripping rags-to-riches story
Extraordinary... An amazing taleLynn Barber
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
Dedman has a keen understanding of the public appetite for such a story and... is thorough, sympathetic and gently wryCressida Connolly
Absorbing... A powerful illustration of the pitfalls of wealth.
Her story is one of the strangest and loneliest imaginable but, in this compassionate, engrossing account of it, Dedman and Newell have done their shy heroine justice.Lucy Moore
An amazing story of profligate wealth, one so wild that 'American aspiration' doesn't begin to describe its excesses . . . 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
Empty Mansions is a dazzlement and a wonder... This is an enchanting journey into the mysteries of the mind, a true-to-life exploration of strangeness and delight.Pat Conroy
Empty Mansions reveals this mysterious family in sumptuous detail.John Berendt