Excerpt from The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Headmaster's Wager

A Novel

by Vincent Lam

The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2012, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2013, 448 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


“Your signature here, Headmaster Chen,” said the younger man from Saigon, offering a receipt for signature and the envelope.

“I will read it later,” said Percival, ignoring the receipt as he took the manila envelope. “Thank you, brothers. I will send it back by courier.” He put it down on the table. They did not budge. “Why should you wait for this? You are important, busy men. Police officers, of course.”

They did not say otherwise. The older man said, “Sign now.” Of course, they were the quiet police. Below the balcony, Percival glimpsed some of the school’s students having their breakfast in the square. Some squatted next to the noodle sellers. Others ate baguette sandwiches as they walked. Percival was relieved to see Teacher Mak coming toward the school. Foong Jie would send Mak up as soon as he arrived.

Percival tore open the envelope, slipped out a document from the Ministry of Education in Saigon, and struggled through the text. He was less fluent in this language than in English, but he could work out the meaning. The special memorandum was addressed to all headmasters, and outlined a new regulation. Vietnamese language instruction must be included in the curriculum of all schools, effective immediately. “You rich Chinese always have a nice view,” said the older man, looking out over the square. He helped himself to a piece of papaya. Dai Jai offered a napkin, but the officer ignored him and wiped his fingers on the tablecloth.

The younger one thrust the receipt at Percival again. “Sign here. Isn’t that church the one . . .”

“It is.” Percival peered at the paper and selected an expression of slight confusion, as if he were a little slow. “Thank you, brothers, thank you.” He did not say big brothers, in the manner that one usually spoke to officials and police, or little brothers, as age and position might allow a headmaster. He made a show of re- reading the paper. “But I wonder if there is a mistake in this document coming to me. This is not a school. This is an English academy, and it falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Language Institutes.”

The older one bristled. “There is no mistake. You are on the list.”

“Ah, perhaps the Department of Language Institutes did not review this directive. I would be surprised if Director Phuong has approved this.” Mak must be downstairs by now. Percival could easily delay until he made his way up.

“Director Phuong?” laughed the younger officer.

“My good friend Director Phuong,” smiled Percival. He was Hakka, his name was Fung, though he had come to Vietnam as a child and used the name Phuong. Each New Year, Percival was mindful to provide him with a sufficient gift.

The older one said, “You mean the former director. He recently had an unfortunate accident.”

“He is on sick leave, then? Well, I will take up this matter when he—”

“He will not return.” The older man from Saigon grinned. “Between you and me, some say he gave too many favors to his Chinese friends here in Cholon, but we didn’t come to gossip. We just need your signature.”

Percival stared at the memorandum. He was not reading. Just a little longer, he thought. Now he heard sure steps on the stairs, familiar feet in no hurry. Mak appeared on the balcony, nodded to Percival, who handed the papers to him. Mak glanced at the visitors and began to read the document. The teacher was thin, but compact rather than reedy, a little shorter than Percival. While some small men were twitchy and nervous, Mak moved with the calm of one who had folded all his emotions neatly within himself, his impulses contained and hidden. For years he had worn the same round, wire- rimmed glasses. The metal of the left arm was dull where he now gripped it to adjust the glasses precisely on his nose.

Excerpted from The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam. Copyright © 2012 by Vincent Lam. Excerpted by permission of Hogarth Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Dark Flood Rises
    The Dark Flood Rises
    by Margaret Drabble
    Margaret Drabble, the award-winning novelist and literary critic who is approaching eighty and ...
  • Book Jacket: All Our Wrong Todays
    All Our Wrong Todays
    by Elan Mastai
    You need a great deal of time to read All Our Wrong Todays, but don't let that put you off. ...
  • Book Jacket: Dadland
    Dadland
    by Keggie Carew
    In her notable debut, Keggie Carew examines the life of her father Tom, a decorated war hero whose ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church

In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Our Short History
    by Lauren Grodstein

    Lauren Grodstein breaks your heart, then miraculously pieces it back together so it's stronger, than before.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Mercies in Disguise
    by Gina Kolata

    A story of hope, a family's genetic destiny, and the science that rescued them.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

The fact of knowing how to read is nothing, the whole point is knowing what to read.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O My D B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -