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

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The Headmaster's Wager

A Novel

by Vincent Lam

The Headmaster's Wager
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2012, 416 pages
    May 2013, 448 pages

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Mak sighed, “I have to go down to teach.”

“Thank you for telling me about the girl. He must marry a Chinese.” “I was mostly concerned about the school; your son with a student, the issue of appearances.”

“That too. Get someone else to take your second- period class this morning. We will go to Saigon to address this problem, this new directive.”

“Leave it.”


“Why don’t you think about it first, Headmaster?” “I have decided.” Mak was right, of course. It was easy to hire a Vietnamese teacher— but now Percival felt the imperative of his stubbornness, and the elation of exercising his position.

“I’ll call Mr. Tu. He is discreet. But Chen Pie Sou, remember it is our friends in Saigon who allow us to exist.” Mak used Percival’s Chinese name when he was being most serious.

“And we make it possible for them to drink their cognac, and take foreign holidays. Come on, our gwan hai is worth something, isn’t it?” If the connections were worth their considerable expense, why not use them? Mak shrugged, and slipped out.

Had Percival been too harsh on Dai Jai? Boys had their adventures. But a boy could not understand the heart’s dangers, and Dai Jai was at the age when he might lose himself in love. A good Chinese father must protect his son, spare him the pain of a bad marriage to some Annamese. The same had destroyed Chen Kai, even though she was a second wife. Now, the Vietnamese language threatened to creep into Chen Hap Sing. Looking out over the square, watching the soldiers clean their rifles with slow boredom, he saw it. The events had come together like a pair of omens, this new language directive and Mak’s mention of Dai Jai’s infatuation. Under no circumstance could he allow Vietnamese to be taught in his school. He must be a good example to his son, of being Chinese. Percival went downstairs and found Han Bai, his driver, eating in the kitchen. He told him to buy the usual gifts needed for a visit to Saigon, and to prepare the Peugeot to go to a meeting.

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.

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