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 X
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: The Story of Arthur Truluv
    The Story of Arthur Truluv
    by Elizabeth Berg
    Elizabeth Berg's heartwarming novel scored an an impressive 4.4 average rating from the 48 members ...
  • Book Jacket: The Last Ballad
    The Last Ballad
    by Wiley Cash
    Ella May WigginsA hundred years ago or so, farming land west of Charlotte, North Carolina was given over to giant ...
  • Book Jacket: Future Home of the Living God
    Future Home of the Living God
    by Louise Erdrich
    Louise Erdrich began Future Home of the Living God in 2002, set it aside, and picked it up again in ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

At once a love story, a history lesson and a beautifully written tale of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Strangers in Budapest
    by Jessica Keener

    Strong characters and a riveting plot combine in this psychological thriller set in Budapest.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor

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

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E Dog H I D

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.