Book Club / People

Tilly Lawless on literary evolutions and the book that brought her to tears

"I think through showing the hypocrisy and dishonesty of people so clearly they really formed who I became and what I value." Sex Worker, activist and writer Tilly Lawless joins the RUSSH Book Club, sharing her 5000+ collection and the reads that changed her life.

I am currently reading …
Alexandre Dumas’s Ingénue: Or The First Days of Blood. He writes the best historical adventures / romances.

My favourite book
I really don’t think I have a favourite. I’m a sucker for pastoral romances so Lorna Doone would be one, then horses would bring me to National Velvet. Kidnapped is probably my favourite adventure novel. Lord of the Rings for fantasy. Cold Comfort Farm or Gentlemen Prefer Blondes make me laugh the most. I also love books with a strong moral message, so for example Silas Marner or The Heir of Redclyffe.

My actual favourite book …
If ‘actual’ is meant to be a stand-in for what have you read the most / what is your comfort novel when you are sick then I would have to say Tamora Pierce Alanna: The First Adventure.

My childhood favourite book …
Is the Silver Brumby Series, Thowra forever!

The book that changed my life is … I think perhaps Watership Down, The Red Pony or Animal Farm, because I read them all when I was quite young (under 10) and they broke me. I think through showing the hypocrisy and dishonesty of people so clearly, they really formed who I became and what I value.

The character I most identify with is …
I remember reading War and Peace and wondering if people would describe me how Natasha is described, because of my excess of energy and passion. That’s attempting to see myself how others see me though. I don’t know if there’s any one character that I identify most with, there are parts of many.

The last book I read …
Yukio Mishima’s The Sailor who Fell from Grace with the Sea. Loved it, cried in the girls’ room at work.

The book I would give as a gift is …
I mean, I try to cater gifts to the person, so rather than thinking what is a ‘good’ book is or a book I enjoyed, it’s what I think that specific person would like. I think the book that I have recommended to the most people though is Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, because there are so many layers to it that I think most people can read it and find something for them in it. Also I feel like graphic novels are often dismissed as lesser than traditional literature, so I often recommend it as an entry point to see how wonderful and complex graphic novels can be.

The best book I ever received is … my dad gave me a copy of the world’s rarest pony book when I was 16, it’s called Silver Snaffles. I rarely get given books though, people know I am picky and prefer to choose – plus I have over 5000 so can be hard to pick one I haven’t read!

My favourite writer is… because…
I don’t have a favourite writer but the writer I’ve read the most books from is Agatha Christie, but that’s also because she was so prolific. In terms of writing, I think Toni Morrison writes so beautifully but doesn’t everyone think that? A writer that I’d never heard of and I was shocked to discover the beauty of recently was Hal Porter, his autobiography The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony. I don’t think he’s the best writer ever but it was completely unexpected because he’s not in the ‘canon’.

The book everyone should read at least once is …
I think if you’re Australian, and not Indigenous Australian, you have a duty to educate yourself and reckon with the genocide, so something like Blood on the Wattle. Also something that I often recommend to people when they are going through a rough time is Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis because it is so fascinating and also heartening to see a writer transition from someone with an incredible wit and talent, to someone who, through personal tragedy, has become aware of the injustices of the world & grapples with bigger topics than he once did. Reading it often gives me fortitude.