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Carmen S. (Elkins, Arkansas)
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!
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)
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.
Susan B. (Sarasota, FL)
Reality in Vietnam
Perceval Chen has a story to tell of being Chinese in Vietnam. He arrives there to find his father and life takes him along a path of being headmaster in a school teaching English to students who then become translators for the Americans in Vietnam.
Daniel H. (Oak Lawn, IL)
A worthy read
The book is well written and the characters well developed as the author brings us into this life, its reality and perceived reality. While I thought it started slowly by the end I couldn't put it down. A real tale of complexity and love, gain and loss, risk taking and rewards or lost wagers. Seen thru the eyes of those who experienced a war from the point of where they lived and made their lives is enriching reading for all.
It took me well into the middle of the book to come to care for Headmaster Chen. He is a very flawed, though not actually evil, character, whose bad life choices are instrumental in his undoing. That said, I came to like him more, when he fell unintentionally in love. As outside forces, in the form of Vietnam war sequelae, destroyed his status quo, the Headmaster became one of the many whose lives ware turned upside down, resulting in difficult choices in order to survive. Ultimately, I liked the book and story, though I would hardly call it a "must" read.
Rayna T. (Auburn, CA)
My initial review of The Headmaster's Wager
I am not quite finished with the book yet as I got a late start on it. So far it is quite interesting and I will add to it later on. I find the 2 parents love and concern for their child touching as they will go to any lengths financially to get him back. I also find the parents relationship different considering that they are divorced and the wife is back biting him all the time. But at least they joined together to ransom him back.
I will add to this shortly.