Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune - Paul Clark Newell Jr., Bill Dedman

I think the book was pretty fair and unbiased as possible regarding the subject: Huguette Clark, daughter of "Copper King" W.A. Clark. Extremely wealthy but isolated and private by choice. You can't fault someone for being that private if it's their choice. Ultimately, the problems and controversy surrounding her death resulted from what it always does: people who felt entitled to her fortune.

 

On the one hand, her closest staff and confidantes probably did try to fix things to their advantage, not out of maliciousness but it seemed just to be expectation. After working intimately for someone who always gave generous cash gifts to you, wouldn't you expect a great bonus? On the other hand, the surviving relatives involved didn't know her at all and while their initial concerns for her safety in her last years seemed good, why didn't they make more attempts to get to know her through an intermediary or use their own wealth and influence to get her better accommodations?

 

The only truly disgusting party involved seemed to be the hospital that tried to extort money from her over the years in the form of "donations." Ugh, I hate reminders about how corrupt 'public' institutions are when we are so dependent on them.

 

Mrs. Clark was an interesting figure to read about, but I think the most important takeaway from the book was this: arrange your final affairs early on in life.

 

I am curious about the author now. For example, he wrote in detail about some possessions that Mrs. Clark had her in apartment, and then later, from the perspective of younger individuals who recounted seeing these items in person some time later, one sees how bizarre the collections seemed out of context. It was a subtle reminder how what the individual perceives as a private obsession, the public can perceive as eccentricity, even a symptom of insanity.