Reviews of Empty Mansions

The critics rave about Empty Mansions.

“It’s one of those incredible stories you didn’t know existed. It filled a void.” — Jon Stewart, "The Daily Show." Watch the interview here.

“A spellbinding mystery.” — Booklist

"Her story is one of the strangest and loneliest imaginable but, in this compassionate, engrossing account of it, Dedman and Newell have done their shy heroine justice." — Literary Review

One of the 15 best nonfiction books of 2013 — Barnes & Noble

One of 10 finalists in the Goodreads Choice Awards 2013, in history and biography category.

One of the 100 best books of 2013 — Amazon.

One of the five best biographies of 2013 — Biographile.

Publishers Weekly calls Empty Mansions “riveting … deliciously scandalous … a thrilling study of the responsibilities and privileges that come with great wealth.” Read the starred review.

New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin, who listed Empty Mansions among her 10 favorites of the year, called it "an amazing story of profligate wealth, one so wild that ‘American aspiration’ doesn’t begin to describe its excesses.” She called it "an outsized tale of rags-to-riches prosperity.” Maslin added:

  • “A more reckless and sensationalized book than Empty Mansions would try to pigeonhole Ms. Clark as a poor little rich girl with a bad case of arrested development. (She loved the Smurfs and the Flintstones. She also took a serious interest in dolls, and commissioned the House of Dior to create doll clothes.) A more lurid account would also salivate over the conflicting claims to her estate. And authors less open-minded than these would draw easy comparisons between Ms. Clark’s later years and those of Howard Hughes. But she was a generous woman with many long-distance friendships; she just liked to keep them that way. The authors invoke ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’: they call her ‘a modern-day ‘Boo’ Radley, shut up inside by choice, safe from a world that can hurt.’ ”
  • “Unlike many other Clark family members, [co-author Paul Newell] knew Huguette, who died in 2011 at 104, well enough to receive occasional phone calls from her, though she was too wily to give him her number. She was polite, lucid and even chatty, all of which undermine the idea that she was a crazy recluse living in miserable isolation. Far from it: her favorite late-18th-century French fable described the benefits of living unobtrusively as a cricket, rather than glamorously as a butterfly. She seems simply to have preferred to live quietly in tightly controlled surroundings, after spending her childhood and young adulthood as a jewel-bedecked heiress to a vast copper fortune.”

"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"

Other reviews:

  • “Meticulous and absorbing.” — Bloomberg Businessweek
  • “Fascinating … [a] haunting true-life tale.” — People
  • “A tremendous feat.” — “A compelling account.” — The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • “Enlightening.” — Library Journal
  • “A fascinating story.” — "The Today Show." Watch the video here
  • “Impressive for its delicacy and depth.” — Town & Country
  • Empty Mansions is an “Edward’s Biography Pick” and “Featured New Arrival” at Barnes & Noble and a “Best Book of the Month” in history at Amazon.
  • “… an exhaustively researched, well-written account of the life of Huguette Clark… It will make you angry and will make you sad.” — The Seattle Times
  • 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
  • “In Empty Mansions, a unique American character emerges from the shadows. Through deep research and evocative writing, Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr., have expertly captured the arc of history covered by the remarkable Clark family, while solving a deeply personal mystery of wealth and eccentricity.” — Jon Meacham, author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
  • “Who knew? Though virtually unknown today, W.A. Clark was one of the fifty richest Americans ever—copper baron, railroad builder, art collector, U.S. senator, and world-class scoundrel. Yet his daughter and heiress Huguette became a bizarre recluse. Empty Mansions reveals this mysterious family in sumptuous detail.” — John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
  • Empty Mansions is a mesmerizing tale that delivers all the ingredients of a top-notch mystery novel. But there is nothing fictional about this true, fully researched story of a fascinating and reclusive woman from an era of fabulous American wealth. Empty Mansions is a delicious read—once you start it, you will find it hard to put down.” — Kate Alcott, bestselling author of The Dressmaker
  • “More than a biography, more than a mystery, Empty Mansions is a real-life American Bleak House, an arresting tale about misplaced souls sketched on a canvas that stretches from coast to coast, from riotous mining camps to the gilded dwellings of the very, very rich.” — John A. Farrell, author of "Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned"
  • “… an evocative and rollicking read, part social history, part hothouse mystery. … Was Huguette, as she is variously described, slow, emotionally immature, retarded, disabled, strangely withdrawn, childlike, like a stump, like a homeless person, scared, vulnerable, and likely incompetent? Or was she scarred, perhaps, but really just quiet, lovely, generous to a fault, educated, intelligent, lucid, cheerful, possessed of a keen memory, relentless, sophisticated in pursuing the arts, a remarkable woman who knew her own mind, and a formidable personality who lived life as she wanted, always on her own terms? To their credit, the authors leave it to the reader to decide.” — The Daily Beast
  • “Her life would have remained cloaked in the obscurity she cherished had Bill Dedman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with NBC, not stumbled across the mystery while house-hunting with his wife outside New York City in 2009. That story is told in Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune. He co-wrote the book, to be published on Tuesday, with Paul Clark Newell, a cousin of Clark and the only relation with whom she spoke regularly in her later life. He is not involved in the challenge to her will.” — The Daily Telegraph, London