This was a new perspective for me on the Vietnam War. Most of what is on offer for us here in the U.S. is told from the perspective of Americans involved in that war. THE HEADMASTER'S WAGER gives us a picture of life for the common people in and around Saigon during the war. There was a lot of money to be made as a result of the war, but the stakes were high, and certain classes of people were destined to lose regardless of who won the war. I now have a much better understanding of why some people were so desperate to get out of Saigon when it fell to the communists in 1975.If you're having trouble connecting with this story, stay with it for at least the first 120 pages. Part One can be a little confusing, and it's hard to figure out what the story is about and where it's going. Beginning with Part Two, it makes more sense, and it becomes quite suspenseful as you get closer to the end.I was stuck between 3 and 4 stars with this book, largely because of my exasperation with the headmaster, Percival Chen. He lives in Vietnam, but he's so obstinately Chinese, and it costs him dearly on several occasions. He's a shrewd gambler, and quite proud of his ability to profit from the Vietnam War. And yet, when it comes to personal relationships, he's not smart at all. He is betrayed by every person he loves and trusts, and still he refuses to see what is before him. He believes in loyalty because he is loyal, and so he assumes that those who have hurt him really meant well and are still on his side.As the story drew to a close I was able to find some respect for Percival when I could see into his heart rather than his head. Ultimately, "the headmaster's wager" is simply hope. No matter how many times he is betrayed, no matter how dire the circumstances, Percival is relentlessly hopeful. In the closing scene, when you know things cannot end well, he is still envisioning the best possible outcome. I couldn't help liking him a little more just for that.