Monday, October 22, 2012

Julie's Reviews: The Headmaster's Wager

Summary: A superbly crafted, highly suspenseful, and deeply affecting debut novel about one man’s loyalty to his country, his family and his heritage.    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 proud of his Chinese heritage, he is quick to spot the business opportunities rife in a divided country, though he also harbors a weakness for gambling haunts and the women who frequent them. He devotedly ignores all news of the fighting that swirls around him, 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 whom he is able to confide in. But Percival's new-found happiness is precarious, and as the complexities of war encroach further into his world, he must confront the tragedy of all he has refused to see.  Graced with intriguingly flawed but wonderfully human characters moving through a richly drawn historical landscape, The Headmaster's Wager is an unforgettable story of love, betrayal and sacrifice.

Review: I will say that the first 100 pages of this 400+ page novel had me riveted to it. I wanted to know what would happen to his son. I wanted to know if Percival would find away to get his son out and keep him safe. After that, I didn't really care much. I found that I wanted to like Percival but in the end I just couldn't care about him. He took too many risks when he should have been honoring his debts. He was a gambler with a craving for prostitues. I felt that he was a hypocrite to when it came to who he loved.

There were definitely things that I enjoyed about this book. I enjoyed learning about this time in history from a different perspective. It was even a bit of a geography lesson as well. I had no clue that Indochina and Vietnam were the same thing. These are the things that keep me coming back to historical ficiton overall.

Dr. Lam definitely has a passion for Chinese history and culture. This was evident in the way that he wrote Percival. I will say that the middle of the book dragged for me and I felt it probably could have been cut down by 100 pages or so.

Anyone who has a keen interest in Chinese history or the history of Vietnam would definitely find The Headmaster's Wagerengaging.

Final Take: 3/5

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Hogwarth for my copy of the book.


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



Shirley October 22, 2012 at 6:20 PM  

That is pretty much how I felt about the book as well. I was less engaged in it, perhaps, and found a sincere lack of empathy on my part for Percival for the same reasons you stated.

Dr. Lam's love of China, its history and culture do shine through in his writing.

Julie October 22, 2012 at 8:02 PM  

Shirley - I'm so happy I'm not the only one that felt this way about the book.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours October 26, 2012 at 8:20 PM  

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.

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