• Empty Mansions

  • The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
  • By: Bill Dedman, Paul Clark Newell Jr.
  • Narrated by: Kimberly Farr
  • Length: 13 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 09-05-13
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Random House Audio
  • 4 out of 5 stars 4.1 (839 ratings)

Regular price: $31.50

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Editorial 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)
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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.
©2013 Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. (P)2013 Random House Audio
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Critic Reviews

" 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
4 out of 5 stars
By Branden on 09-23-13

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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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Beje on 07-20-14

A Wowzer Book!

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

I have already recommended this book to two friends, and I purchased it as a gift for a third one (who is 99-1/2 years old and thrilled with it). The time period is like a history book with living characters.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Empty Mansions?

It's hard to narrow and rate the good parts of the book and I don't think it was the kind of spellbinding book that has a big zinger. The entire plot was a money brain teaser. That is, I cannot imagine such opulence. (I do realize things were much different before the establishment of the IRS, but still, Mr. Clark's riches were breathtaking. For the audio book (which I guess, the hard copy will not have), the telephone recordings between Huguette and one of the co-authors was truly enticing. It allowed me to hear her reasoning and judge her mental alertness first hand. A rare privilege for book reading. It added a whole different dimension to the story.

Which character – as performed by Kimberly Farr – was your favorite?

Well, of course, Huguette was the centerpiece of the book as she had been for her Mom and Dad. When I finished the book, I felt that I had the opportunity to know her as well as anyone. For sure, she had her quirks (putting it lightly) but nevertheless was well defined. Maybe the next interesting character was Huguette's personal nurse who enjoyed Huguette's wealth to the tune of millions of dollars, multiple homes, and a Bentley. The nurse was an immigrant who had married a taxi driver.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

You couldn't possibly listen to the book in one sitting because it is detailed and chock full of so much good information that a bit of reflection to absorb it is really a must.

Any additional comments?

The book is well worth the investment. I love the gilded era and that's where this one begins. It ends nearly 104 years later. As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of history, society changes, and a world of which most folks have never glimpsed. The reader did a very good job, as did the authors.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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