In 2006, 32-year old physician Vincent Lam won the Scotiabank Giller Prize for his collection of medical short stories Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures. Over the past six years, he's continued his medical practice while writing his much-anticipated first novel, The Headmaster's Wager.
Vincent Lam was born in London, Ontario and raised in Ottawa. His parents were part of the Chinese expat community in Vietnam, before emigrating to Canada. Since he was a teenager, Vincent Lam has been carrying a set of family stories with him. The Headmaster's Wager is his response to his family's history and to Vietnam.
The novel's protagonist, Percival Chen, is based on Vincent's grandfather. Percival is the headmaster of a prestigious English school in Saigon during the Vietnam War. He is fiercely proud of his Chinese identity and he takes full advantage of his privileged position, indulging in drinking, gambling, and beautiful women. When the Vietnam War threatens his family, Percival must confront the limits of his connections and his wealth.
Shelagh recently spoke with Vincent Lam about his new book, his family's past, and what it's like balancing his dual lives as a writer and a medical doctor. We hope this extended version of their conversation allows you to luxuriate in Vincent's thoughtful insights.