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The Wasted Island

O’Duffy, Eimar

Dublin: Martin Lester Ltd


The Wasted Island

Plot Summary

The novel tells the story of Bernard Lascelles, the son of a prominent Anglo-Irish Dublin physician. A particularly astute child, he is sent to Ashbury, which, although Catholic, is modeled on the typical English boarding school. Once there, Bernard becomes learned in the various politics of the world and decides that he is at heart a socialist. Soon he begins to resent that he has been raised a West Briton, without explicit knowledge of his home country and its history. Such sentiments lead him to choose the National University instead of Trinity College upon graduation.

In university, Bernard meets scores of colleagues with various opinions about Irish nationalism and, although he is studying medicine, his real education comes through his voracious reading of every Irish history he can find. Reuniting with some of his old Ashbury friends, he learns about the Irish Volunteers and decides to join, eventually becoming one of the movement’s primary gun-runners. Meanwhile, he is engaged to be married to Mabel Harvey, the daughter of one of his mother’s friends.

Bernard becomes more and more involved with the Volunteers and ends up doing a short stint in prison as a result; while he is there, Mabel breaks off the engagement and takes up with an English soldier. Shortly after, Bernard’s grief is exacerbated when his brother Eugene and his childhood best friend, Jack, are killed in action on the Western front. By the time it is learned that there are rebellious forces amongst the Volunteers, Bernard has become increasingly confused about his political stance. Several days into the Rising, he decides he must do his part to help, and he quietly leaves the house where he is staying. Separated from those of his friends who have remained apart from the violence, he kills a soldier and is immediately revolted by his actions. Racked with guilt, he carelessly makes his way through the streets and is apprehended by another soldier, who throws him into a dark cell. When he is found two days later, he has lost his mind. The novel hints that he spends the rest of his days “wasted” and mad.

Main Characters

  • Bernard Lascelles

Significant Minor Characters

  • Dr. Eugene Lascelles

  • Alice Lascelles

  • Eugene Lascelles Jr.

  • Mabel Harvey

  • Hektor O’Flaherty

  • Uncle Christopher Reilly

  • Stephen Ward

  • Michael Ward

  • Jack Willoughby

  • Austin Mallow

  • Brian Mallow

  • Felim O’Dwyer

  • Eoin MacNeill

  • Cyril Umpleby

  • Fergus Moore

  • Hugo McGurk

Publication History

Novel was first published in hardcover in 1919 by the short-lived Dublin publishing firm Martin Lester Ltd. (directors Bulmer Hobson, James MacNeill and Colm O’Lochlainn). The first American edition was released in hardcover by Dodd, Mead and Company (New York) in January 1920. In 1923, the Talbot Press in Dublin also published it in hardcover. A revised version of the novel was released by MacMillan & Son (London) in hardcover in January, 1929. The novel has recently been brought back into print by the Kessinger Press (Whitefish, Montana); it published a paperback version in February 2008 and a hardcover one in June 2008. A recent paperback version was also released by General Books in December 2009. The novel is currently in print by both Kessinger and General Books.

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