The Headmaster's Wager
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 p...more
This book is powerful. Twice I had to put down the book, because the author had created such tension that I couldn't immediately go forward, out of anxiety for the characters.
And those two points came fairly early in the story, which takes place mostly in southern Vietnam, in the era surrounding the 1975 fall of Saigon.
Later I learned to discipline myself to keep reading, as those two early pivotal points are mild compared to the some of th...more
This is a historical...more
It takes only reading the first chapter of The Headmaster’s Wager to understand that Lam excels in the art of traditional...more
He clings to his Chin...more
Chan is the owner/headmaster of a prestigious English school in Saigon. He happens to be Chinese and this heritage alone...more
This one's been hanging around in the "to be reviewed pile" for a fairly embarrassingly long time, and I'm not entirely sure why. But once i did pick it up, I didnt want to put it down. Lam is a master craftsman working at his height, and one can only hope he can top himself.
The story is one of hope turned to tragedy as we follow the life of a Chinese National- the titular Headmaster, known in Saigon by his english name, Percival Chen. We watch, riveted, as he...more
Beautifully written, the words like paint strokes on a detailed painting. Percival Chan appears to have a life many would envy, especially in the midst of war and poverty. He has accumulated wealth and good standing as the Headmaster of an English-teaching academy. But his former wife never cared for him, and his son's moment of defiance creates devastating long-term problems. For all his failings, including gambling and prostitutes, he loves his son...more
I'm pretty familiar with the historical context of the book due to my having grown up in Canada during the Vietnam War. From that standpoint, the book provided an outstanding view of the experience of urban residents of Saigon and Cholon, the Chinese district of the city.
What I am unsure of is whether the book gives a good representation of Chinese culture, that is such things as Chinese family values, the role of fate a...more
One of the central themes in the book is mixed marriage and how children from these mixed marriages were regarded. Another theme of the book is what is right and what is wrong and the choices people...more
Doubleday Canada | April 24, 2012 | Hardcover|ISBN 978-0-385-66145-4
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 Percival Chen English Academy. Fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage, he is quick to spot the business opportunities rife in a di...more
"Looking at his son was like examining himself at that age. At sixteen, Dai Jai had a man's height, and, Percival assumed, certain desires. A boy's impatience for their satisfaction was to be expected. Like Percival, Dai Jai had probing eyes, and full lips. Percival often thought it might be his lips which gave him such strong appetities, and wondered if it was the same for his son. Between Dai Jai's eyebrows, and traced from his nose aro...more
Percival is the principal of an English school. Is he a good guy? Well what is a good guy? He is kind (sort of), he cares about his family and tries to make their lives better. But at the same time he spends a lot of time gambling and whoring. But I would call him a good guy, a naive stupid man who is neither good or bad...more
This book, set in an ex-pat Chinese community just outside of what was then Saigon, South Vietnam, in 1968, is beautifully written and engaged me from the first page onward. The author skillfully conveyed the tension and uncertainty of living in a country at war, and invaded by hordes of outsiders (French, American, Communist North Vietnamese.) Even the ending of the book, which at first dismayed me, vividly depicted the unce...more
The Headmaster’s Wager possesses everything I look for in a book: intriguingly flawed characters, ambiguity, tightly-woven and suspenseful plot, page-turning revelations and a fresh perspective of an old plot theme – the Vietnam War.
Chen Pie Sou – renamed Percival Chen -- is the eponymous headmaster, in charge of the Percival Chen English Academy, which was formerly the rice warehouse of his father. He is a Chinese ex-patriot, a self-...more
And I liked the story of The Headmaster’s Wager very much. It had...more
Percival Chen runs an English language academy in Saigon, sending graduates to work as translators for the Americans who are heavily involved in the Vietnam War. Though he has lived in Vietnam since he was a young man, he is still very much a Chinese ex-pat, a stereotypical successful businessman who spends a lot of his energy paying out bribes, gambling, and womanizing. He is also totally devoted to his son, Dai Jai. Percival will wager anything for his son -- his own happiness and even his own...more
The Headmaster's Wager is the story of Percival Chen, the headmaster of an English academy in Vietnam. The setting is the Vietnam war, and Cholon and Saigon are full of corruption and uneasiness. The story takes place over several years, and is filled with twists and turns.
But enough about a lame, spoiler-free plot summary. I definitely enjoyed the book, but I thought that it declined a bit in the last hundred p
Percival gambles, drinks, and visits brothels. At his side is his trusted friend and colleague, Mr. Mak. It's Mak who convinces Percival to open an Eng...more
I got tired of reading endless descriptions of Chinese food, casinos, money and the Headmasters dislike for shaking hands with sweaty palmed Americans. I found the Headmaster (Percival) annoying, materialistic and incredibly thi...more