Jeanette's Reviews > The Headmaster's Wager

The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam
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's review
Aug 17, 2012

it was amazing
Read in July, 2012

The Headmaster's Wager tells the story of flawed characters who struggle with their life choices. The setting for the book is Vietnam and covers the periods from Japanese occupation through the U.S. involvement in the Vietnamese civil war to the U.S. troops leaving Vietnam to Vietnamese unification.

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 must make in life to live with their conscience.

Percival Chen is the Headmaster of a school which teaches Vietnamese to speak English in order to have jobs with the various U.S. institutions in Vietnam, interpreters for the army, etc. He sends his son back to China because his son was involved with a Vietnamese girl. Chen is unaware of the changes that were occurring in China at that time and what is happening to his son until it was too late. Later Chen wins a night with Jacqueline, a beautiful young woman of Vietnamese and French heritage, and Chen falls in love with her. When Jacqueline gives birth to a baby boy during the Tet Offensive, Chen loves the two of them even more. However, he couldn't bring himself to marry Jacqueline because she wasn't Chinese.

There are few incidents in the book which were quite awful and I would have to put the book down for a little bit before I went back to it. However, the incidents described in many cases are based on historic event and are needed to give a true picture of life in Vietnam during this time.

Along with being a gripping story of family relationships, this book gives the reader a picture of what it was like to be living in Vietnam during this time period. Also, by the end of the book, the reader realizes that the Headmaster's wager was about more than just winning Jacqueline for a night.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Aban (Aby) I enjoyed reading your review, Jeanette. I've had this book on my 'To Read' list, and your review has made me eager to get my hands on it.

message 2: by Carol (new)

Carol A great read Jeanette and very different from Vincent Lam's other books. Also, one realizes very quickly how little we really knew at the time.

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