Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam + Giveaway

Reviewed by Laura

From Giller Prize winner, internationally acclaimed, and bestselling author Vincent Lam comes a superbly crafted, highly suspenseful, and deeply affecting novel set against the turmoil of the Vietnam War.

Percival Chen is the headmaster of the most respected English school in Saigon. He is also a bon vivant, a compulsive gambler and an incorrigible womanizer. He is well accustomed to bribing a forever-changing list of government officials in order to maintain the elite status of the Chen Academy. He is fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage, and quick to spot the business opportunities rife in a divided country. He devotedly ignores all news of the fighting that swirls around him, choosing instead to read the faces of his opponents at high-stakes mahjong tables. 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, and Laing Jai, a son born to them on the eve of the Tet offensive. Percival's new-found happiness is precarious, and as the complexities of war encroach further and further into his world, he must confront the tragedy of all he has refused to see.

Blessed with intriguingly flawed characters moving through a richly drawn historical and physical landscape, The Headmaster's Wager is a riveting story of love, betrayal and sacrifice. (Taken from Goodreads). 

The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam is not a typical book I would read, but a perfect example of why I started my blog-- to read books I might not otherwise pick up.

A story of a Headmaster at an English school in Vietnam  Percival Chen (Chen Pie Sou) who is all about making a profit, gambling, spending time with prostitutes  and making sure his son, Dai Jai marries a Chinese woman. His money and his position and very good teacher/friend Mak help him to influence those around him. He speaks of his love for China and yet never returns. When his son gets in trouble, Percival spends almost everything he has to protect him. He soon learns there is limitations to what he can actually do.

After his son is sent away, Percival falls for Jacqueline. He opens up to her about everything and seems to have found a love he'd never known before. But, she is mixed and he will not marry any woman who is not Chinese.  Over the years, the climate around Vietnam and China change and yet Percival seems to keep his head in the sand never really admitting to what is going on. His refusal to open his eyes puts those around him at risk.

The more I read this book, the more I was taken in by this book. I did struggle with my feelings about Percival--his constant avoidance to what was going on in the world frustrated me. He seemed very well to do and could have really taken care of those around him, but he sat on his hands time and time again. This was frustrating because you knew he really loved and wanted to take care of his loved ones. As the novel approached the end it seemed as if he finally was opening his eyes. And in truthfulness I was rooting for him the entire time.

Of all the characters, I like Jacqueline the most. She loved Percival and really didn't pressure him, but tried to get him to see things. I wanted Percival to do right by her. I felt like all the females in the story were very strong.

There were a few big twists in the story, one I knew was coming but wasn't sure exactly. I will say it did surprise me. The other big surprise--wow! Totally didn't see it coming! The further I read the more difficult it was to put down. After reading, The Headmaster's I realized how very little I know about the history of China, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

Like I stated earlier, this is not the typical genre I read. This is an intense novel, beautifully written and I highly recommend The Headmaster's Wager.


I am able to give a copy of The Headmaster's Wager away to one person with a US/Canada mailing address. Just leave me a comment telling me one book you've really enjoyed outside the "typical" genre you read. Don't forget to leave me your email address! The giveaway will close November 8th at midnight EST. Once I email the winner they will have 48 hours to email me their mailing address or I will pick a new winner. Good luck!

Vincent Lam

Buy The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam

This Book was sent to me from TLC Book Tours in exchange for a honest review. 

Dr. Vincent Lam’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, September 10th:  The Bowed Bookshelf
Monday, September 17th:  Book Chase
Wednesday, September 19th:  Bibliophiliac
Monday, September 24th:  My Bookshelf
Wednesday, September 26th:  Lit and Life
Monday, October 1st:  BookNAround
Thursday, October 4th:  Mom in Love with Fiction
Monday, October 8th:  Paperback Princess
Wednesday, October 10th:  Susan’s Literary Cafe
Wednesday, October 10th:  Unabridged Chick
Monday, October 15th:  A Book Geek
Thursday, October 18th:  Bookish Habits
Monday, October 22nd:  Girls Just Reading
Thursday, November 1st:  A Novel Review


  1. I rarely read romance novels but recently found myself chuckling off and on through a Lisa Klaypas Wallflower novel.

    nanze55 at hotmail dot com

  2. "to read books I might not otherwise pick up."

    This is my reason to live! - which makes it difficult to name a genre I don't normally read; however, Christian fiction isn't high on my list. I just finished "The Shack" because it was a topic of discussion between some friends, and it was an interesting concept.

    Thank you for your review of "The Headmaster's Wager".

    jcsites2002 at hotmail dot com

  3. Thanks for the review, I'd really like to win this book.

    I don't read very many humorous books but I got a big kick out of the dog stories in I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship edited by Wade Rouse.


  4. A book that I loved outside my normal genre.... The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty. Loved it loved loved it.
    sharn3960 AT comcast DOT net

  5. I'm glad you enjoyed this one! Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

  6. Just saw TLC post this on Twitter and I had to come comment. I loved this book, just loved it. I thought the characters were fantastic, the history was spot-on and the story was wonderful. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  7. I recently read a mystery/romance titled, The Dance of the Winnebagos, by Ann Charles. I rarely read mystery, but this book was so fun. It had a vein of humor throughout that made it such an enjoyable read.

    One of the stories I'm working on is during the Vietnam War era, so I'd love to read The Headmaster's Wager!

    nicnac63 AT hotmail DOT com

  8. Thanks everyone! A winner has been sent an email!