A sad state of affairs when even the rich can’t or won’t take care of their elderly relatives

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American FortuneEmpty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is so much info in this book that it is hard to know where to start.
At this very moment in time there are two groups of people fighting over Huguette’s money. One side is made up of living relatives (a lot of them) and the other side consists of her lawyers, caregivers and charities. The relatives haven’t seen the heiress for decades, some of them literally haven’t laid eyes on her in half a century.
Not one of them checked to see if she was alright or even alive. That might sound strange but being the recluse she was it would have been an easy feat to keep a premature death hidden. All contact to family members was directed via her lawyer and there was no way to contact her directly.
Just before she entered the hospital, which was twenty years prior to her death, she was extremely ill and parts of her face were cancer ridden. I will spare you the gory details. Needless to say this was an old woman in her eighties who should have been in care or being cared for. Not one family member bothered to check on her.
Huguette enters the hospital and is then subjected to what I can only call financial blackmail, thievery and completely unethical behaviour at the hands of her carers, the hospital and board of directors of the hospital.
When a nurse or caregiver is receiving money and gifts to the tune of 20 million dollars then that person is morally and ethically corrupt. There are many examples in the book most of which just had me shaking my head and I have to ask why there was no person there looking out for her best interests?
She spent her entire lifetime writing giving away money to anyone and everyone. That generousity was abused by many people. Her property was stolen, her art was stolen by reputable museums, two of her bank safety deposit boxes complete with family jewels were sold off illegally/stolen by her bank. On and on the list goes. Her lawyers were too busy making millions off her back and her family had forgotten she existed.
This was an educated woman with amazing connections and a massive fortune, and yet she died as neglected as most of the elderly do in our society. Old and forgotten.
The story is filled to the brim with names, places, facts and figures and it does weigh it down. I think the author wanted to make sure he didn’t miss any detail, which then meant there was no more room left for any moments of literary prowess.
Dedman paid explicit attention to the excessive spending. I have to say I was shocked at the way the relatives dismantled the properties after Huguette’s father died. Dumping priceless items in landfills and the sea. Disgusting.
I also enjoyed the pictures included in the book. After reading the descriptions it gave faces to names and images to objects, especially to that spectacular mansion.
Towards the end I think there was change in tone when the author spoke about the relatives. It seemed as if he had started to feel something akin to anger on her behalf. I tend to agree. I can understand the family for not wanting the people who used Huguette to get any more money and at the same time the family doesn’t deserve to have it either. Somebody in that huge wealthy and privileged family should have been watching out for her even if she was difficult.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

View all my reviews

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