Apart from the opening chapter, the novel is set in 1989 and is a remarkable evocation of that era. Some scenes, for example in the Benefits Office are strongly relevant to the present day.
There are two main characters: Michael and Tom. Their lives are separate but come together briefly before separating again. Each character is complex and dealing with personal, emotional and social issues of an intense and disturbing nature. Each character is very well written and you quickly become involved in the lives of both men and concerned about them. Some aspects of their lives are similar and many are not and afterwards you are left pondering about where they overlap and what the factors that lead to their behaviours were and how things might have been different for them. Not to give the story-line away but there are some very poignant and moving scenes although unexpectedly the novel does end on an optimistic note. The cast of supporting characters are equally well drawn particularly Tom's father George and Tom's friend Sandy and her parents.
The story-line sustains your interest right through to the end although you have to give it some concentration at first to get into it. This is a thoughtful and reflective novel but there are plenty of scenes where direct action moves the story forward, ensures a good pace and offers several surprising developments.
There is some beautiful, lyrical, descriptive writing which is not over-done but creates vivid images as you read.
The lay-out of the novel is interesting using blocked paragraphs with a wider spacing between paragraphs than you usually find. The consequence of this is to slow you down as you read; you can't speed read this novel. But then why would you want to? It is a novel to savour and think about because it raises some challenging and controversial issues.
I was really impressed by the author's ability as a writer and the quality of this novel. A Cleansing of Souls deserves its many five star reviews on Amazon and really is a very good literary novel.