Loss of Innocence by William Eisner

Who is Rene Lambert? The answer, wrapped in William Eisner’s Loss of Innocence, may be difficult to surmise, and will certainly surprise you. Part business wizard, part con-man, Lambert rides a wave of meteoric success on the back of his company American Electric, all the while his fraudulent financial moves mount behind him. That’s not the full story, however. With American Electric, the charismatic Lambert hopes to build a company that caters to the needs of his employees, their families, and the community; a company with a heart. Told from the point of view of Lambert’s impressionable head of finance, the story follows Lambert’s rise, its climactic consequences, and those closest to him. Fleurette, Lambert’s clairvoyant daughter, finds herself mixed up in an underground cult; Gladys, his wife, is swept into the heat of his actions as Lambert’s empire begins to crumble. Throughout, your picture of Rene Lambert may shift and build, but the quote from Daniel Defoe Eisner has chosen to open the story perhaps puts the character most appropriately, “This Sir, is an Age of Plot and Deceit, of Contradiction and Paradox… It is very hard under all these Masks, to see the true Countenance of any Man.”

Eisner’s prose is at once lyrical and intense, filled with original imagery and swift moving action. The story moves at a high, readable pace and will not leave the reader wanting for much. His ability to create realistic and relatable characters should be noted as a high point. They seem able to leave the page at will. But the moral quandary is the crux at the heart of the story- although Lambert commits an series of immoral, dishonest actions, does it (or will it) matter, since it was done in the name of a decent cause? Or, as the title suggests, will his actions cause Lambert more pain than he first bargained for? Thought provoking, thrilling, and highly entertaining, Loss of Innocence is not only for the business savvy but for anyone ready to watch Lambert cast a spell over the ledger books and see if he can get out from under their undeniable shadow.