Monday, November 4, 2013

Empty Mansions - Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.

Genre:  Biography
Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Publication Date:  September 2013
Rating:  5 Out of 5  Near Perfect

PROS:  Fascinating read, interesting lifestyle 

CONS: None

Hugette Clark...if you're like me, you may not have heard her name before.  If you have been watching the news of late, though, those words are becoming more of a household name!  Having passed away in  2011, her estate was going to court this year to hopefully be settled among her family.   

Hugette was raised in a very prominent family in the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York.  Having traveled the world while she was young, Hugette was accustomed to a lifestyle similar to that of the Rockefeller's.  Multiple homes, caregivers, and servants, Hugette lived a life of luxury and never wanted for anything.  She was an heiress and philanthropist that was accustomed to getting what she wanted. 

There does however remain a mystery behind her life in the 20 years before her death.  Becoming somewhat of a recluse, Hugette seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth, staying hidden away in hospitals, not even living her final days in one of her own homes.  Phone calls were the norm, face-to-face visits were not.  She kept her staff on in all of her homes, keeping them employed though her properties remained empty.  The biggest question came at the end of her life, after passing away, what would become of her millions?  It seemed that would be left up to the courts.

The authors did an excellent job in researching Hugette Clark and her life.  Paul Clark Newell, Jr. is even a cousin to Hugette, and spent time talking with her about her life and family, but always on the phone.  At times he wished to contact her in person, but she always insisted on calling him at her leisure, not on his.  Not one to overly share facts and details of her life, Hugette was at often guarded in what she shared, and some facts had to be obtained from others around her. 

The most fascinating parts of the book for me were all the details in the different properties her family owned.  The detail and planning that went into the building of their New York home, not to mention the finances, left my jaw dropping and hitting the floor!  To think of their expenses at that time, and what that would be equivalent to today! 
One of the slower parts of the book for me was the chapters having to do with Hugette's fathers political career.  Not one for politics, I quickly skimmed over these parts.  While they did add knowledge and history in to her family's life, I easily could have done without them.
**I received this book in exchange for my honest review**


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