Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam

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 his son.
“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.

Title: The Headmaster's Wager
Author: Vincent Lam
ISBN: 9780385661454
Publisher: Fourth Estate/2012
Pages: 391

Percival Chen (Chen Pie Sou) is the headmaster of a English School in Saigon, Vietnam. He is also a gambler, womanizer and also into bribing the Govt officials to keep his school on the top. Mak, one of the teachers' in his school has links and gets everything done for him. Chen does not know the connections Mak has and does not wish to know either.

Chen's son Dai Jai gets into trouble and has to be sent out of Saigon to China, their home country. Chen meets a young woman Jacqueline, who is half Vietnamese and half French. In his loneliness, he falls for her and they have a son. Meanwhile, there are sweeping political changes in Vietnam and Chen cannot escape it. Then he discovers certain secrets which totally change his life. Dai Jai too is somehow lost to him. 

The Headmaster's Wager has characters which are flawed. Chen is not a lovable character yet we are with him through his journey. There is love, honour, betrayal and the ultimate sacrifice. For the loved one. This is not a fast paced novel but I could not put it down in the last half. I gained knowledge about China, Vietnam and most of all human faults and frailties. 

This is one of those novels which makes reading worthwhile and blogging a pleasure.....


fredamans said...

Sounds like a notable read!

Unknown said...

Hmmm interesting. I sometimes find it hard to read a book if I do not like the mc. I guess there is truth and honesty in a mc that is not always likable. Thanks for sharing!

JC Jones said...

Interesting combination of places and people. Thanks for sharing.

Sandra Nachlinger said...

This sounds like an engrossing novel. I'd like to learn more about China and Vietnam.
Here's the link to my Friday post: CAKE.

Brona said...

Sounds like a good drama with complex characters - I've heard of this author but haven't read anything by him yet.

guiltlessreader said...

You got me with this book as I love to read about anything set in Asia or by Asian authors. Adding this to my TBR!

Anonymous said...

Awesome review! This looks like one I need to get my hands on.

Elizabeth said...

Ooooooo...sounds terrific.

THANKS for the great post.

I am including an entire review and giveaway for my book beginning since I haven't read anything new for the past two weeks. :)

Silver's Reviews
My Book Beginnings

Hazel Lee said...

Sounds like there are a lot of different stories and settings woven into the book. Interesting. =)

Vonnie said...

I'm glad he kept his promise to the little boy, even if it delayed him to wherever he had to go.

Thanks for stopping by Vonnie's Reading Corner.