Book: The Headmaster’s Wagerby Vincent Lam
Reviewed by: Spencer
The Headmaster’s Wager is by far the best novel about the Vietnam War since The Things They Carried. Yet, it really isn’t even about the Vietnam War, but rather the setting in which we learn about Percival, the headmaster of an English school in 1960s Saigon. The book is the tale of those who struggle to maintain a semblance of normalcy during a time of great upheaval and the changes that occur in their personal lives. It is a tale of love and loss, wealth and poverty, corruption and bribery, and the ways in which people survive during war. The novel is beautifully written and opens a window into a world most have never experienced.
Vincent Lam paints a picture of the daily lives of those who were there, those who attempted to avoid the conflict that seemed both distant and to sustain their existence. This is not a book about the struggles of combat, but rather the ways in which people survive under various regimes during a time of war. It is refreshing to read a book written not from an American point-of-view, but, in this case, from the point-of-view of a Chinese expatriate living in Vietnam. Not only is this book a great read, but it is extremely fascinating to learn about the civilians who were caught in the midst of such a convoluted conflict. The Headmaster’s Wager is an emotional rollercoaster, filled with sights and sounds and smells that are foreign, yet described in a way with which anyone can connect. It should definitely be at the top of everyone’s list for a fresh read.