Due for release September 10th 2013
‘Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the spending of a great American fortune,’ is a book about a house, the man who built it and the fate of his only surviving daughter, Huguette Clark, after his death. I would have read this book if it was just about the mansion. I love old houses and I love learning the history of those who used to live there. In this case, it was the discovery of the old Clark house by Bill Dedman while he was looking at houses that he couldn’t afford that sparked the idea for the book and led to the research into the family of Huguette Clark. Paul Clark Newell Jr as a relative of the family provides family reminiscences that provide life to the facts gathered by Bill Dedman. The descriptions of the mansion show the luxury the rich lived in during the Edwardian period and are detailed enough to allow you to imagine yourself there, with your own library and famous artworks.
The details of the family in this case are just as interesting. Contemporaries of the Rockefellers, the Clark family is a lesser known millionaire family that rose to prominence in the same time period. I always like a tale of a self made man and W.A.Clark was definitely that. Starting life in a log cabin, he made his fortune through hard work and a little bit of luck. He was already an old man when Huguette was born and on to his second wife.
I also like how this book shows that tragedy is not restricted to the poor and that the wealthy classes also had their share of death, despair and misfortune. Also it shows that wealth and privilege did not always bring happiness or good fortune to the family.
If you are interested in a real life family drama that stands the test of time, then this book is for you. Through the life of Huguette and her family, you get the sense of history as it was lived and Huguette’s and the Clark family’s tale is definitely one worth telling.