Format: Trade Paperback
Dimensions: 400 Pages, 5.91 × 9.06 × 0.79 in
Published: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 0385661460
ISBN - 13: 9780385661461
Read from the Book
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. Muy Fa had insisted that Chen Kai remain for the New Year celebration, never mind that the coins from their poor autumn’s harvest were almost gone. What few coins there were, after the landlord had taken his portion of the crop. Chen Kai had conceded that it would be bad luck to leave just before the holiday and agreed to stay a little longer. Now, a few feet away in their one-room home, Muy Fa scraped the tough skin of rice from the bottom of the pot for the next day’s porridge. Chen Kai smoothed his son’s hair. “If you are to grow big and strong, you must sleep.” Chen Pie Sou was as tall as his father’s waist. He was as big as any boy of his age, for his parents often accepted the knot of hunger in order to feed him. “Why . . .” A hesitation, the choosing of words. “Why must I grow big and strong?” A fear in the tone, of his father’s absence. “For your ma, and your ba.” Chen Kai tousled his son’s hair. “For China.” La
From the Publisher
"What if your sophomore effort is a masterpiece? Lam''s hugely
impressive first novel . . . has all the markings. It is a project
he has nurtured since his teens--the epic story of his own people,
ground almost to oblivion on the bloody geopolitical fulcrum of the
Vietnam War--and the result is as good a novel as anyone has ever
written about those times. . . . A powerful and engrossing work."
--The Globe and Mail
Percival Chen is the headmaster of the most
respected English school in Saigon. He is also a bon vivant, a
compulsive gambler and an incorrigible womanizer. He is well
accustomed to bribing a forever-changing list of government
officials in order to maintain the elite status of the Percival
Chen English Academy. Fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage, he is
quick to spot the business opportunities rife in a divided country.
He devotedly ignores all news of the fighting that swirls around
him, choosing instead to read the faces of his opponents at
high-stakes mahjong tables. But when his only son gets into trouble
with the Vietnamese authorities, Percival faces the limits of his
connections and wealth and is forced to send Dai Jai away. In the
loneliness that follows, Percival finds solace in Jacqueline, a
beautiful woman of mixed French and Vietnamese heritage, and Laing
Jai, a son born to them on the eve of the Tet offensive.
Percival''s new-found happiness is precarious, and as the
complexities of war encroach further and further into his world, he
must confront the tragedy of all he has refused to see.
About the Author
Vincent Lam is from the expatriate Chinese community of Vietnam.
Trained in Toronto, he is an emergency physician and a lecturer at
the University of Toronto. His first book, Bloodletting &
Miraculous Cures, won the 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Lam is
the co-author of The Flu Pandemic and You, which received
an award from the American Medical Writers Association in 2007, and
author of a biography of Tommy Douglas, published as part of the
Extraordinary Canadians series. He and his family live in Toronto.
"I love this book''s vivid realization and its deft weave of
conspiracies. I especially admire Lam''s ability to transport a
reader. . . . A colourful, suspenseful depiction of Chinese living
in Vietnam during the war."
-The Globe and Mail
"Lam marshals his characters with humor, suspense, and tenderness
as the fall of Saigon looms. Even as Percival navigates the
minefield of shifting ideologies, treachery, and paranoia-incurring
one inconceivable cost upon another-his devotion suffuses every
page. Lam depicts a world caught in an implacable cycle of
violence, leavened only by the grace of a father's love."
"The Headmaster''s Wager does what only the very best
literature can do: it provides characters you care about deeply
(even as they break your heart) and has plot twists you don''t see
coming but then couldn''t imagine any other way. Vincent Lam has
written a mature and rewarding novel of the highest quality, and
Percival Chen will remain with you long after the final page. This
is an exceptional book."
-Andrew Davidson, author of The Gargoyle