Empty Mansions

  • by Bill Dedman, Paul Clark Newell
  • Narrated by Kimberly Farr
  • 13 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

When Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bill Dedman noticed in 2009 a grand home for sale, unoccupied for nearly 60 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 19th century with a 21st-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 20 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.
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. 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.


Audible Editor Reviews

"Empty Mansions is at once an engrossing portrait of a forgotten American heiress and a fascinating meditation on the crosswinds of extreme wealth. Hugely entertaining and well researched, Empty Mansions is a fabulous read." (Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire)


What the Critics Say

"Empty Mansions is a dazzlement and a wonder. Bill Dedman and Paul Newell unravel a great character, Huguette Clark, a shy soul akin to Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird - if Boo’s father had been as rich as Rockefeller. This is an enchanting journey into the mysteries of the mind, a true-to-life exploration of strangeness and delight." (Pat Conroy, author of The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Almost Great...

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, because it was really good but, I would warn them that they will be dissappointed with the way the author ended it.

Who was your favorite character and why?

W. A. Clark was my favorite character. I like his rags to riches story. My least favorite was Hugette, she wasted 104 years and there are plenty of people that would have used the money to feed millions of people or something like that instead of buying dollhouses and keeping up empty mansions.

Have you listened to any of Kimberly Farr’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not listened to her before but I hope to again. She was great.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?


Any additional comments?

This book was great for the most part. Incredibly interesting, I liked the actual voice recordings and the way the narrator narrated. The end of the book was terrible. I think that the author should have waited until the estate was settled before telling the story. I could not believe how he ended the book. So I was very very happy with the book until the last "page." Shame on him.

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- Branden

could have been better

This book was written before the lawsuits about Clark's money were resolved. Some of the information in the writing seems to be padding to make the story longer. Such as long lists of gifts.
Questions about whether the heiress was slow intellectually are never fully addressed.
The book concludes with a sing song eulogy which seems artificial.
The narrator has a shrill voice at times and over does the accent when pronouncing French words.
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- Roberta "Vassar graduate, living in Mexico and retired."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-04-2013
  • Publisher: Random House Audio