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.
WOW—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!