Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Book Talk Tuesday (on a Wednesday)

My latest book read is a little of the norm for me...it's a book called Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune.  This story is truly perplexing and if you actually might of heard about Ms. Clark and just don't realize it.  In fact, the morning after I finished it, the Today Show was discussing the pending litigation in relation to her will.

Huguette Clark was the youngest daughter of W.A. Clark, a self made millionaire in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  Huguette was born to Clark and his second wife when he was in his sixties and she in her thirties.  W.A. built his fortune doing just about everything.  He had an amazing ambition and almost 6th sense of where to land in order to make money.  He was copper industrialist, state senator, railroad builder and founder of Las Vegas...does Clark County ring a bell to anyone?

When W.A. died, he had 5 living heirs...Huguette and four children from his first wife.  Huguette's mother, Anna, received only a small portion in his will.  His children then received equal amounts of what was left.  So, Huguette, only 19 when her father died, was now a millionairess.  What is most extraordinary is that the last twenty years of her life were spent in isolation in a hospital room even though she was perfectly healthy.  
When Huguette died at the age of 104 only weeks from her 105 birthday, she left a will of $300 million that was quickly contested by 19 descendants of the Clark family.    

The story of the Clark's is a very interesting one.  The book was a long read, but very worth it.  I believe Huguette was probably an amazing woman to have known and anyone who had the opportunity to call her friend was greatly blessed to have known such an eccentrically generous woman.




from barnesandnoble.com
When Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist Bill Dedman noticed in 2009 a grand home for sale, unoccupied for nearly sixty years, he stumbled through a surprising portal into American history. Empty Mansions is a rich mystery of wealth and loss, connecting the Gilded Age opulence of the nineteenth century with a twenty-first-century battle over a $300 million inheritance. At its heart is a reclusive heiress named Huguette Clark, a woman so secretive that, at the time of her death at age 104, no new photograph of her had been seen in decades. Though she owned palatial homes in California, New York, and Connecticut, why had she lived for twenty years in a simple hospital room, despite being in excellent health? Why were her valuables being sold off? Was she in control of her fortune, or controlled by those managing her money?
 
Dedman has collaborated with Huguette Clark’s cousin, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., one of the few relatives to have frequent conversations with her. Dedman and Newell tell a fairy tale in reverse: the bright, talented daughter, born into a family of extreme wealth and privilege, who secrets herself away from the outside world.
 
Huguette was the daughter of self-made copper industrialist W. A. Clark, nearly as rich as Rockefeller in his day, a controversial senator, railroad builder, and founder of Las Vegas. She grew up in the largest house in New York City, a remarkable dwelling with 121 rooms for a family of four. She owned paintings by Degas and Renoir, a world-renowned Stradivarius violin, a vast collection of antique dolls. But wanting more than treasures, she devoted her wealth to buying gifts for friends and strangers alike, to quietly pursuing her own work as an artist, and to guarding the privacy she valued above all else.
 
The Clark family story spans nearly all of American history in three generations, from a log cabin in Pennsylvania to mining camps in the Montana gold rush, from backdoor politics in Washington to a distress call from an elegant Fifth Avenue apartment. The same Huguette who was touched by the terror attacks of 9/11 held a ticket nine decades earlier for a first-class stateroom on the second voyage of the Titanic.
 
Empty Mansions reveals a complex portrait of the mysterious Huguette and her intimate circle. We meet her extravagant father, her publicity-shy mother, her star-crossed sister, her French boyfriend, her nurse who received more than $30 million in gifts, and the relatives fighting to inherit Huguette’s copper fortune. Richly illustrated with more than seventy photographs, Empty Mansions is an enthralling story of an eccentric of the highest order, a last jewel of the Gilded Age who lived life on her own terms.

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