On the shelf: Book review of “Empty Mansions”

05BOOK-blog427Empty Mansions:

The Mysterious Life of Hugette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune

by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.


Review by Mary Knudstrup

Grand Rapids Main Library


The rich really are different and nothing proves it as much as Empty Mansions, the story of Huguette Clark, heir to the riches of her millionaire father, W.A. Clark , a savvy and ambitious businessman and politician, who made his money in copper mines and founded a town that later became Las Vegas.


Authored by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr., a cousin to Huguette, Empty Mansions tells the story of a woman so wealthy she owned paintings by Renoir and Degas, Stradivarius violins, and several remarkable homes, including an estate in Santa Barbara, California, and three apartments totaling more than 40 rooms at a posh Fifth Avenue address.


Despite her vast wealth, however, she chose to spend a large part of her life as a recluse, collecting dolls and abandoning her many opulent homes to live in a small and rather spartan hospital room even though she was not ill.  A complex and mysterious individual, she was extraordinarily generous to people she hardly knew but avoided most of her family.


Upon her death her secluded life was thrust into the public venue as a legal battle over her $300 million dollar ensued.  Meticulously researched and filled with illustrations of her homes and possessions, Empty Mansions is an intimate look at an eccentric life.