Rating: 4 Stars
Basically this book shows you that everything you think is probably true about people that you wish was not actually true, is true.
Is that a sentence?
At least it makes sense in my head. People are selfish and manipulative and will do whatever they can to cash in on an inheritance that does not belong to them, all under the guise of 'caring for a family member'. What bullshit.
Having first read Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman, I feel like both are well-written and engaging. I don't really recommend one over the other and think that if you are interested in the strange life and sad death of Huguette Clark, you should read both.
This book doesn't just cover the end of Huguette's life when she voluntarily chose to leave her number of homes and live in Beth Israel Hospital. Instead, the author traces Huguette's life from the start - her life in Paris, growing up in Butte, Montana, the family's home in Santa Barbara at Bellosguardo, and the main residence on Fifth Avenue that stood for only eleven years before being torn down after her father's death. By all accounts, Huguette was an active social - albeit shy - young lady who enjoyed the life that her robber baron of a father provided with his copper fortune.
So what changed?
First, Huguette's beloved older sister Andree died of meningitis at 17, when Huguette was only 13. I feel like this was really the point that changed Huguette and her mother. Then her father passed away in 1925 - but not before imparting this gem on his youngest daughter: "No one will love you for who you are. They will love you for your money." It seems like a harsh lesson to have dropped on such a 16 year old, but he was not wrong. As Huguette neared the end of her life, family members from her father's first marriage seemed to come out of the woodwork to get their hands on her inheritance - despite the fact that they had all already received their shares of the family fortune. Not that anyone else in Huguette's life was any better. Her nurse, doctors, the hospital, her lawyer, and accountant - all of these people just wanted her money and it was painfully obvious that the only two people in her life who were not gold diggers were her goddaughter Wanda and her assistant Chris. I get the fact that there was concern about elder abuse, that Huguette might be a hostage of some kind and being coerced into giving her money to those around her. However, her money-grubbing family members had no footing on which to claim they were looking out for her best interests.
There are so many aspects of Huguette's life that are intriguing and tragic and heartbreaking. The whole 'eviction' notice from her father in his will was awful. So, basically Clark spent a ton of money to build this house that everyone said was ugly. I thought it was beautiful, and wish all these old mansions still existed as a testament to this bygone time.