Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune is about a 21st century battle over a $300 million inheritance. At the heart of the story 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 three states, she lived for 20 years in a simple hospital room while being in good health.
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. 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 September 11 held a ticket nine decades earlier for a first-class stateroom on the second voyage of the Titanic.
Richly illustrated with more than 70 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.
Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune is available from Ballantine Books for $28 at Lake Forest Book Store, 847-234-4420.
— Susan Boucher