Catherine O’Flynn’s What Was Lost was hailed on publication as a potent examination of the hollowness of contemporary life - something she had witnessed in her many previous jobs.

Before she became a writer, O’Flynn had stints as, among other things, a record shop deputy manager, a postwoman, a teacher, a web editor, and a ‘mystery shopper’ (an offshoot of the market research industry). The record shop job was in an out-of-town shopping complex near Birmingham and, she says, she ‘found the centre a very strange and extreme environment’. The experience was not without value, however, as it became the setting for her novel: ‘I started writing notes about it just for myself - to remind me of how hideous it was for some future point when, hopefully, I would no longer be working there’.

Catherine O'Flynn

All nominated books

What Was Lost