**spoiler alert** Having some inter-generational relationships in our family gives me a unique perspective on this story...I can't buy it. It's a nice...more**spoiler alert** Having some inter-generational relationships in our family gives me a unique perspective on this story...I can't buy it. It's a nice idea, but in reality I'm not sure life after deciding you're going to get it on with your best friend's dad (who, frankly, is your own father figure)is an enjoyable story line for me!!(less)
This blog post has nothing to do with the current state of my health, directly, but I'd like to make the argument that reading does much to benefit one's health. So, I submit to you, a review of a book that just...surprised me: Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of the Great American Fortune.
I thought I would skim this book and send it on back to the library, but instead I found I physically couldn't put it down. I started reading from part of the intro out loud because I couldn't help myself. My husband interrupted: "Is this real?"
Yes, yes it is.
This is the story of Huguette Clark. More than that, it's the story of her father, how he came to be filthy rich, what happened to his money after he died, and what became of Huguette. She was his youngest child out of 9 (though two died young). She was from his second marriage and, it appears, wasn't very connected to her half-sisters and half-brothers from her father's first marriage. When Huguette's father died, he split his wealth evenly among his children, but this doesn't stop Huguette's cousins (generations removed) from falling all over themselves to claim their 'inheritance' when Huguette dies. Huguette becomes a recluse--only speaking to others through phone calls (but never giving our her own phone number) and indirectly through others. She owns hilariously extravagant properties and collector's items (you know, just a Monet, Renoir or Stradivarius...). She is a closet philanthropist, handing out large sums of money easily to those close to her.
Her story is a twisted fairy tale, or, as the author's put it: "...the story of the Clarks is like a classic folk tale--except old in reverse, with the bags full of gold arriving at the beginning, the handsome prince fleeing, and the king's daughter locking herself away in the tower."
I particularly respected Huguette for, as it appears, choosing to live outside the spotlight. When her Renoir (valued at 10 million) was stolen and miraculously reappeared in someone else's home, she declined to sue to get it back just to protect her privacy. Her favorite French fable (which she could recite in THREE languages):
A poor little cricket Hidden in the flowery grass, Observes a butterfly Fluttering in the meadow. The winged insect shines with the liveliest colors: Azure, purple, and gold glitter on his wings; Young, handsome, foppish, he hastens from flower to flower, Taking from the best ones. Ah! says the cricket, how his lot and mine Are dissimilar! Lady Nature For him did everything, and for me nothing. I have no talent, even less beauty; No one takes notice of me, they know me not here below; Might as well not exist. As he was speaking, in the meadow Arrives a troop of children. Immediately they are running After this butterfly, for which they all have a longing. Hats, handkerchiefs, caps serve to catch him. The insect in vain tries to escape. He becomes soon their conquest. One seizes him by the wing, another by the body; A third arrives, and takes him by the head. It should not be so much effort To tear to pieces the poor creature. Oh! Oh! says the cricket, I am no more sorry; It costs too dear to shine in this world. How much I am going to love my deep retreat! To live happily, live hidden. Pour vivre heureux, vivons cache.
When this book was published, Huguette's (greedy!) relatives were still contesting her will. She hadn't left a penny to them, but to those who kept her company and maintained her health on a day-to-day basis (who, frankly, also seem like greedy bastards). I'll be curious to see how this story ends. Are there really any winners after drawn-out, expensive legal battles? It pains me, though, to see Huguette get turned into a butterfly in the end, instead of remaining the cricket she clearly preferred.(less)
This was an intriguing story from a point of view not often seen-a badass woman who fought in the Civil War. This story follows Constance from her hom...moreThis was an intriguing story from a point of view not often seen-a badass woman who fought in the Civil War. This story follows Constance from her home, through battles (and you know, various other near death experiences and conflicts), and eventually back home again. The reason I didn't give it four stars is only because the writing style and I didn't get along--it's very stream-of-conscious and, for me, hard to follow. However, the prose, the descriptions, the horror of Constance's reality-all pretty awesome.(less)
**spoiler alert** Kind of interesting, but mostly underwhelming for me. It reminded me very strongly of The Village. Emmeline lives in a secluded sett...more**spoiler alert** Kind of interesting, but mostly underwhelming for me. It reminded me very strongly of The Village. Emmeline lives in a secluded settlement. Hints of why a group of people living as if they are in Puritan times are dropped, but no real explanations or background are given. Those in power, of course, have terrified their people with tales of strange creatures in order to keep them within the settelement and to keep everyone under their power. There are the usual tension-filled teen romances. Emmeline is an interesting character--she is unclean, or 'stained', because of something bad her Grandmother did years ago. Her feet are also deformed. Emmeline, of course, is the one who discovers what's really going on with her settlement and reveals it to all. The writing was excellent, but the storyline didn't offer any real surprises. At one point, Emmeline wanders into the woods and I was expecting some fantastical discovery--she only discovers a group of tortured settlement folks and a cave drawing. Underwhelming. (less)
Brilliant illustrations, excellently done. Abirached was born two years before me. Even though this book illustrates exactly how horrifying war can be...moreBrilliant illustrations, excellently done. Abirached was born two years before me. Even though this book illustrates exactly how horrifying war can be, I found it interesting that Abirached and I still had some of the same memories. The repetitiveness and rhythm of this book, coupled with it's brevity, make it a quick, easy read. This is a perfect choice for a history student and, of course, for anyone who can appreciate a tough, but beautiful, story. (less)
Not as good as the first one! I still enjoy this series and I have a feeling #3 will be the best yet. #2 was kind of confusing and slow-moving for me-...moreNot as good as the first one! I still enjoy this series and I have a feeling #3 will be the best yet. #2 was kind of confusing and slow-moving for me--the whole time I was waiting for Zach to cut ties with The Program and grow a pair (#1 was building up to that!) but instead he only sort of realized how untrustworthy they might be at the very end of this book. So, now I'll wait for #3 to see if the story finally moves forward. Definitely a good read for teens who like action movies with assassins, double-crossing, etc. (less)
I couldn't put this one down. There are plenty of cookie cutter zombie stories out right now and this one ISN'T. It starts out from the POV of a littl...moreI couldn't put this one down. There are plenty of cookie cutter zombie stories out right now and this one ISN'T. It starts out from the POV of a little girl who appears to be institutionalized-Melanie. The story of our fallen world emerges slowly (but not too slowly!) and it's fascinating. The book follows little Melanie, some army grunts, a psychologist/teacher, and a scientist hell-bent on dissecting Melanie. Carey is a gifted writer. The ending wasn't uplifting, but I couldn't see it any other way. (less)