Reading guide for The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam

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

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. How does Lam bring the world of 1960's Saigon to life, using the senses of sound, smell, and taste? What passages were most viscerally powerful for you?
  2. Lam wrote this novel using third-person limited narration, meaning that although it is not told in Percival's voice, readers have access to only his thoughts and observations, and not those of other characters. How did this technique affect the experience of reading this story? Could it have been as effectively told in first-person, or using an omniscient narrative that allows insight into other character's feelings?
  3. Early in the novel, Percival instructs Dai Jai to remain invisible, saying that as overseas Chinese, "we are safer when we remain quiet." What do you think of this strategy, as war encroaches on their community? Is it possible? Is it moral?
  4. Percival frequently finds ways to justify his bad behaviours, often blaming others. Do you think he always believes his own rationalizations? What is your opinion about the quality of his character? What made him this way? Can he find redemption?
  5. Why does Percival agree to go along with Mak's undercover activities? What is his motivation?
  6. What is the significance of the one-eyed monk who begs near the school each day? What does he mean to Percival?
  7. Discuss the role of fathers, and the impact of their absences, throughout the novel.
  8. After Percival witnesses the immolation of the priest at the zoo, he has a nightmare. Did you know it was just a dream, or did you think it was real as you read it? Given what happens next, what do you make of this dream?
  9. Near the novel's close, Percival tells Laing Jai "Once you have left a place, you can never go back... the place of your memories will have vanished, and you will have new memories." What do you think of this statement? Do you agree?
  10. Discuss the significance of the title. In your opinion, which is the most significant of the headmaster's wagers? What has been your own greatest wager in life so far?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Hogarth Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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: Midwinter Break
    Midwinter Break
    by Bernard MacLaverty
    Northern Ireland's Bernard MacLaverty is the author of five novels and multiple short story ...
  • Book Jacket: The Ninth Hour
    The Ninth Hour
    by Alice McDermott
    In a pivotal scene in The Ninth Hour, young Sally encounters an increasingly loathsome series of ...
  • Book Jacket: Rebellion
    Rebellion
    by Molly Patterson
    Rebellion overlays the stories of four women, spanning a century and the globe in their wide ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

An eye-opening and riveting look at how how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Love and Other Consolation Prizes
    by Jamie Ford

    Inspired by a true story, about a boy whose life is transformed at Seattle's epic 1909 World's Fair.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Twelve-Mile Straight
    by Eleanor Henderson

    An audacious epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If the Creek Don't Rise

If the Creek Don't Rise

A debut novel bursting with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y Can't M A S P O O A S E

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.