Hugette experiences the loss of her teenage sister and father within a few years of each other in the 1920s. Already somewhat lonely and isolated, she lives with her mother until she marries in her early twenties, quickly divorces then returns to her mother's home. She lives withher mother until her mother's death in mid 20th c.
Once her mother passes, her days are filled with obsessive collecting of vintage dolls, Japanese cultural artifacts and dollhouses as well as the meticulous supervision of the maintenance of numerous home that she never lives in. The building of these exquisitely made, highly detailed dollhouses run into the tens of thousands. She is fascinated by cartoons - The Flintstones and the Smurfs in particular.
|Hugette in happier days ...|
But it was not an entirely frivolous life even though the oddness of her preoccupations might suggest a retarded mental development or socialization. Her astute management of her estate well past her hundredth year belie that assessment. Ms. Clark was a generous philanthropist and friend to those causes that she supported and followed her mother's example in financially supporting a select group of friends, artists and persons connected to her employees and servants.
In the end, the descendents of W.A. Clark (he had a brood of five before his wife passed away and he remarried) fight ferociously with attorneys and accountants whom they felt had manipulated the heiress in the final years of her life.
Sadly, the biggest villain in the book appears to be the hospital where Hugette spent the last twenty years of her life. When it learns that likely Ms. Clark, their longest inhabiting hospital guest, would not be bequeathing a significant eight figure gift on the hospital, they move her into a much smaller, unsightly room with a view of the air conditioning units outside her window.
The book is marred, I feel, by transcriptions of banal conversation between Hugette and her distant cousin Paul Newell Clark (cited as co-author of this biography) who did not stand to gain anything from her will. I feel these exchanges are disappointing but my book club colleagues felt that it was a way of illustrating Hugete's lucidity and clarity of mind.