Musings From A Bookmammal

Musing Mondays–What I’ve Been Reading . . .


Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or, you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

This week I’m musing about a nonfiction book I recently finished–and can’t stop thinking about!

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.

empty mansionsWOW—this was a fascinating read!

Huguette Clark was a New York heiress who was so reclusive and secretive that, at the time of her death just a few years ago at age 104, no new photographs of her had been seen in decades.  Born in 1906, she was the daughter of self-made copper industrialist W. A. Clark, who was nearly as rich as Rockefeller and Carnegie, and who was also a controversial senator, railroad builder, and one of the founders of the city of Las Vegas. She grew up in the largest house in New York City–121 rooms for a family of four–and she owned paintings by Degas and Renoir, a Stradivarius violin, and a vast collection of antique dolls and dollhouses. After an extremely brief marriage (she returned home alone just days into her honeymoon) she eventually owned enormously expensive homes in California, New York, and Connecticut, yet they stood vacant as she lived her last twenty years in a simple New York City hospital room, despite being in excellent health. She gave away millions of dollars in money and gifts to charities, foundations promoting the arts, and her employees–some of whom never saw her or spoke to her except via phone or through closed doors.

At her death in 2011, her estate was valued in excess of $300 million dollars. However,  it was discovered that she’d left two signed wills—one leaving her wealth to her remaining family members (distant relatives from her father’s first marriage, most of whom hadn’t spoken to her in decades–she had no children of her own), the other leaving everything to her lawyers, long-time private nurse, and other employees. The question was, had she been in control of her fortune, or was she being controlled by the people she hired to care for her and manage her money? And why did she spend the last 20 years of her life living in a hospital, when even her doctors agreed that there was no medical reason for doing so?

If you love to escape by reading about the lives of the impossibly rich, or if you like a good investigative treatment of a modern day mystery, give this book a try. When I finished it, I immediately went online to do some research about what has happened with Huguette’s estate since the book was published—but I won’t share what I found, as I don’t want to create any spoilers for those of you who may choose to read it.

How about you? What are you reading these days? Please share!

Author: bookmammal

I love books, reading, writing, cooking, eating, reading while eating, and sharing thoughts about all of the above–plus a bit more! I usually post about topics relating to books and literacy during the week, and then participate in a variety of non-bookish memes on the weekend. Please feel free to join in! Some random things about me– –I have multiple bookshelves in every room of my home except the bathroom. They’re all filled to bursting. They help to make my house my home. –I have two cats who I love dearly, but who I definitely do NOT dress in human clothing. Ever. –I’ve never had a cavity. –I make a mean spaghetti sauce. –I’m a newcomer to yoga and I love it. –My day is not complete without a little chocolate.

19 thoughts on “Musing Mondays–What I’ve Been Reading . . .

  1. I can see why that book caught and held you attention. Here is my Post: Mixed Book Bag

  2. Oh, wow, this one does sound like one to read! And what an intriguing storyline. Thanks for sharing…and now I must add it to my list. Here’s MY MUSING MONDAYS POST

  3. Sounds fascinating.

  4. This is a non-fiction? It sounds more like a fictional story. My mind is busy concocting the reasons and whys of this mystery. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  5. Gosh this sounds really interesting and just the sort of thing I like to read. It sounds like such a strange tale with a real mystery at its heart!

    • What gets me is that this was apparently all over the news after her death, and I don’t remember anything about it . . . maybe if I lived in New York I would remember hearing about it.
      I’ve been doing some online research about the case and her life and am now even more intrigued by it all.

  6. Fascinating! Am now reading Anna Quinlen’s latest. Did you recommend it?

    • I picked it up from the library but haven’t gotten to it yet. I may have to return it and get back on the list–so many books, so little time, yada yada yada . . .
      What do you think of it so far?

  7. I had already added this book to my wish list because is sounds phenomenal. I love it when I read a book and I can’t stop talking about it. There are books I read years ago when I started my blog that I still mention from time to time.

    Right now, I’m reading Steam and Stratagem by Christopher Hoare. This is a steampunk novel, which is a new genre for me. You can find my musing at

  8. Oh this sounds fascinating.

  9. This sounds like a really interesting mystery. I am going to have to check this book out.

  10. You’re the second blogger I’ve seen to rave about this book. It looks fascinating!

    Thanks for linking up!

  11. Empty Mansions has been “in my stack” for months — I’ve heard great things about it from other bloggers, and now from you. I will have to read it soon! I’ve really enjoyed your blog — I’m a bookseller (for the last 15 years!) and I really enjoyed your list of the 10 best things about working in a bookstore.

    • Thank you! I really do miss that job sometimes. However, since it’s now been about 12 years since I left it, I’ve FINALLY lost the habit of straightening stacks of books whenever I’m in a bookstore!

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