Reader reviews and comments on The Headmaster's Wager, plus links to write your own review.

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The Headmaster's Wager

A Novel

by Vincent Lam

The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam X
The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2012, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2013, 448 pages

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There are currently 20 reader reviews for The Headmaster's Wager
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Carmen S. (Elkins, Arkansas)

Deeply moving
A beautiful, well told story.
Michael F. (Providence, RI)

A beautiful debut
Strikingly original and beautifully written, The Headmaster’s Wager is a brilliant and heartbreaking first novel. Percival Chen, the imperfect, barely likeable protagonist, is often frustratingly blind to his own circumstances as he attempts to navigate his way along the quiet edges of the Vietnam War. Vincent Lam, as a master of story, makes sure that Percival pays for each misstep he makes, and the reader cannot help but to ache along with him at every consequence he reaps. This is a book that keeps the reader engaged, with well-timed twists and surprises the entire way through. More than that, however, Lam has created characters that feel real and that, in the end, I care deeply about.
Carole V. (West Linn, Oregon)

Best book all summer!
This books takes place in Viet Nam at the end of the war; Percival is the headmaster of an elite school teaching English to students so they can be translators for the Americans. Percival turns a blind eye to events around him until it is too late. All the characters are flawed, but that is what makes the book so real. I loved this book, and it kept me reading late at night. I was thoroughly entertained, but also came away with a better sense of that time in history; our role in Vietnam, and also how we were perceived by the Vietnamese people. Not a moment wasted; he's an incredible writer, can't wait for more!
Power Reviewer
Diane S.

The Headmaster's wager
This was an amazing and original take on a historical novel because it is told from the viewpoint of a Chinese schoolteacher in Vietnam. Percival is a gambler, a womanizer, oblivious and frustratingly obtuse, yet I could not quite dislike him because he was also loyal. He seems to think that as long as he makes money that he can pay out for bribes the changing sides in Vietnam, the tension from the war do not matter and that business just can go on a usual no matter who is in charge. The cultural revolution is changing the face of China and when he is forced to send his son there he is rather oblivious to that as well. Things do come to a head and he is forced, rather brutally to wake up before it is too late, although for some it was and he almost looses everything. All this is told against a backdrop of a rapidly changing history, but it is also a novel featuring some unique characters. I really liked this novel and look forward to reading more from this author.
Erin G. (Dulles, VA)

Brilliant
I rarely say this, but I think this book was just about perfect. The story was expertly plotted and so tense I sometimes had to put the book down for a moment and take a deep breath, my fear for the characters was so real. Percival Chen is such a believable and fatally flawed character. My heart ached for him as he watched the consequences of his choices unfold. An absolutely unforgettable read.
George M. (Antioch, CA)

Things We Should Know
This is a fascinating trip back to a place most Americans never knew existed. Oh, we heard all about The War, the protests, the turmoil that was Vietnam before most of us could find it on a map. What a joy it was to be educated in the culture of the land and that period of time, before the U.S was so deeply involved that it seemed our world went nuts. I highly recommend "The Headmaster's Wager". I think those with an appreciation for history, and that people ARE history, will truly enjoy this excellent novel
Ann W. (new york, NY)

The Headmaster's Wager
This was an outstanding book. It covers a story of an ethnic Chinese gentleman in Vietnam beginning his joining his father during WWII until the victory of the north Vietnamese in 1978. Percival, his English name given to him in Hong Kong focuses on making money, ignoring what is happening to all those around him. We are given information from Percival and only slowly come to realize what he ignores and misses until it is too late and the consequences are earth shattering. Written with empathy and excellent about the immigrant experience and acculturation and often the lack of such it is a masterpiece. For Americans who lived through these times, it forces one to yet again re-examine assumptions about American intentions, behaviors and responsibilities. These questions remain given the recent participation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dr. Lam's novel is excellent, troubling and ends without resolution. I encourage everyone to read it.
Jane H. (Owensboro, KY)

The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam
I have been sending reviews to First Impressions for a while, but this is the first time I have EVER given a 5 to a book I have read through this program. Extremely well written, this is the Vietnam story told from a point of view never heard before. The war is only a secondary player to the political intrigue and perils of day-to-day living in a country at war. Percival's story grabbed me from page 1 and held me breathless through page 423. I HIGHLY recommend and predict this book no doubt will be on the top of all bestseller lists for this year. Kudos to the author!
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