Family, Loyalty & History

The Headmaster's Wager - Vincent Lam

In this magnificently ambition tale a politically naïve Percival Chen, the headmaster of a successful English academy in 1960s Saigon believes in the superiority of his Chinese heritage and the value bribes are the keys to his success. After all this has worked with past conquerors, the Japanese, the French and the Americans–no matter how temporary their stay but being oblivious to the newest player for control will challenge Percival beyond his nightmares.

I was captivated by this book from the beginning and held spellbound to the last paragraph by the Lam’s storytelling ability to intertwine the history/connection of Vietnam, China, Hong Kong and the foreigners. This was an audio book for me and the narrator effectively conveyed the tension, arrogance, love, and betrayals.

I believe part of the appeal of this book for me can also be contributed to my recent trip to China and Hong Kong and reading the wonderful book, “Ghost Month” by Ed Lin helping me to appreciate the complexly layered history of this region.

Lam has crafted a gripping masterpiece that captures a street-level view of the complexity of a world where one misstep can lead to an unraveling of all that you hold dear. I recommend this book to readers of historical fiction.