Kaiser Wilhelm II, Germany’s deposed Emperor, is living out his days in exile at Huis Doorn in the Netherlands. He and his controversial 2nd wife, Hermine, live in a sort of gilded cage–able to travel freely only 15 miles from home. Born Queen Victoria’s eldest grandchild, Wilhelm now spends his days railing at Juda-England, as he now calls his mother’s country, chopping wood, smoking, and feeding the ducks.
When the Nazi’s invade Holland, the Kaiser is given an SS security detail headed by Martin Krebbs, a young officer not sold-out on the SS or Nazi ideals, but who none-the-less discounts the idea of an “interior” life.( “You were what you did; the rest was froth.“) All the same, he arrives not sure he cares about an old Emperor–he wants to go back to the war.
Not long before the Nazis’ arrival, a new well-educated maid, Akki, joins the staff at Huis Doorn and the Kaiser takes a liking to her. She has lovely hands and hands are sexual thing to him–a part of a woman’s beauty and sensuality. And, she is very well-educated and respectful.
Trouble arises, as you can imagine! To say more would be to spoil the story.
The book is now a movie starring Christopher Plummer as the Kaiser. The movie’s trailer is at the bottom of this post. The story has been re-titled The Exception. Names have been changed, too. (I have not, yet, seen the movie).
What I Liked
I thought Judd’s portrayal of the twisted, lonely, and often deluded Kaiser, was excellent. He also captured the personality of the scheming Hermine as well. I thought each of the major characters were believable. More depth would have been nice, but the story was very compelling as is. He did not bog the story down in too much historical minutia–even though I’m a reader who often enjoys that. This kept the story moving at a fast clip.
What I Didn’t Like
If you’re going to write a book–even a novel–on royalty get a grip on titles and forms of address! If you don’t know, look it up! Judd was all over the place with this and it was annoying. Even though real life added some confusion, he should have figured out how the staff would properly address the Kaiser and his wife. By all the residents at Huis Doorn Wilhelm and Hermine were treated exclusively as Emperor and Empress. When the Nazis were present they insisted he was simply Prince Wilhelm. Yet Judd never could get it right. This was irritating.
The other thing that I wasn’t so happy about was that the beginning of the book seemed to mostly be just retelling parts of this video:
Overall, this was a great fast-paced story and I enjoyed it. But for the title thing I had to knock it down a bit in my rating.
The Kaiser’s Last Kiss (aka The Exception) by Alan Judd