Nonfiction Book Club
Our discussions take place in our Community Room unless otherwise indicated. Copies of the books for discussion are available at our Checkout Desk for readers registering for the discussion.
Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.
Tuesday, October 13, at 6:30 p.m.
#1 New York Times Bestseller. When Pulitzer Prize-winning 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?
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 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. Empty Mansions is an engrossing story of an eccentric of the highest order, a last jewel of the Gilded Age who lived life on her own terms.
This discussion will be held upstairs in the library.