The Headmaster’s Wager
Hogarth/Crown, Aug 14 2012, $25.00
In the 1960s in Cholon, Vietnam, Chinese expatriate Chen “Percival” Pie Sou is the headmaster of the most prestigious English language academy in the country. Percival ignores the war between the two Vietnams while fully aware that he is considered a Chinese foreigner after over three decades in the Saigon area and marriage to an upper crust wife Cecilia.
When the government decrees only Vietnamese is to be used at schools, Percival’s beloved son Dai Jai ignores the edict and gets in trouble with authorities. Percival helps Dai flee Saigon for China where he hopes his son marries a Chinese woman. With his son apparently safe in his homeland, Percival begins an affair with Jacqueline, a half-French and half-Vietnamese student. She gives birth to his offspring just as the Tet Offensive occurs. A betrayal by a trusted employee and friend leaves Percival on a Viet Cong hit list
This is a strong look at the Vietnam War from the perspectives of mostly the Chinese expatriate and several locals. Thus Vincent Lam provides insight into survival techniques and divided loyalties in which BFFs for decades betray their friend as the chaos of war engulfs Saigon and the South.