A superbly crafted, highly suspenseful, and deeply affecting debut novel about one man's loyalty to his country, his family and his heritage
Percival Chen is the headmaster of the most respected English academy in 1960s Saigon, and he is well accustomed to bribing a forever-changing list of government officials in order to maintain the elite status of his school. Fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage, he is quick to spot the business opportunities rife in a divided country, though he also harbors a weakness for gambling haunts and the women who frequent them. He devotedly ignores all news of the fighting that swirls around him, but when his only son gets in trouble with the Vietnamese authorities, Percival faces the limits of his connections and wealth and is forced to send him away.
In the loneliness that follows, Percival finds solace in Jacqueline, a beautiful woman of mixed French and Vietnamese heritage whom he is able to confide in. But Percival's new-found happiness is precarious, and as the complexities of war encroach further into his world, he must confront the tragedy of all he has refused to see.
Graced with intriguingly flawed but wonderfully human characters moving through a richly drawn historical landscape, The Headmaster's Wager is an unforgettable story of love, betrayal and sacrifice.
1930, shantou, china
On a winter night shortly after the New Year festivities, Chen Kai sat on
the edge of the family kang, the brick bed. He settled the blanket around
Gwai jai, he said. Well- behaved boy. Close your eyes.
Sit with me? said Chen Pie Sou with a yawn. You promised . . .
I will. He would stay until the boy slept. A little more delay. Muy Fa had insisted that Chen Kai remain for the New Year celebration, never mind that the coins from their poor autumns harvest were almost gone. What few coins there were, after the landlord had taken his portion of the crop. Chen Kai had conceded that it would be bad luck to leave just before the holiday and agreed to stay a little longer. Now, a few feet away in their one- room home, Muy Fa scraped the tough skin of rice from the bottom of the pot for the next days porridge. Chen Kai smoothed his sons hair. If you are to ...
Vincent Lam’s masterful story about the Chinese experience in Vietnam from 1966 to 1975 is both an exploration of the dangers of nationalism and a testimony to the power of love. It captures how difficult it is to know how political/world events are going to end and what we can do to protect ourselves and those we love. I found it to be both captivating and heartbreaking.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
Full Review (730 words).
Although Dr. Vincent Lam was born in Canada, he is "of the expatriate Chinese community of Vietnam." Lam is an emergency physician in Toronto, as well as a lecturer with the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto. Other medical jobs have included international air evacuation and expedition medicine on Arctic and Antarctic ships. Lam has written non-fiction and short stories; The Headmaster's Wager is his first novel.
The book is inspired by the experiences of Lam's grandfather. Although Lam did not grow up in Vietnam, his parents were born there, and his grandfather lived and worked there. Lam grew up listening to stories about life in Vietnam and specifically about the Vietnam War. The stories were ...
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