Barry Humphries has been with Edna Everage since the very beginning. In Handling Edna: The Unauthorised Biography by Barry Humphries he describes how they met, and the adventure she’s dragged him along for ever since.
Before the book even begins there is a “Note to the Reader” eluding to the fact that some people have come to believe that Barry Humphries and Dame Edna are essentially the same person. Humphries writes that he hopes to shed some light on where this belief came from, so that the reader can make their own decision about what they believe.
The first chapter starts in Moonee Ponds, Australia and describes how Barry and Edna met. Humphries writes in the first person, and throughout the book uses description to indicate the decade and location of events he describes.
Each chapter gives an entertaining and fascinating insight into Barry’s life and career (or lack of), Edna and her family’s life and careers, her rise to stardom (and Barry’s lack of understanding as to why) and the problems that it brought her – all in a chronological order.
A few highlights (in no particular order) include Barry being the warm up act for Dame Edna – for various shows; Edna’s time in Hollywood; Barry’s stint in hospital with alcoholism and Edna being his only visitor; Barry’s love life; Barry’s impersonation of Edna on two occasions – the first for his benefit and the second trying to help her; Edna’s poor mental health – in particular in relation to the death of Norm (her husband).
As the chapters go on, towards the end of the book you start to get a fictional feel to the book especially in the final few chapters. Earlier in the book Barry is handed a letter for Edna by Madge. Madge instructs Barry to only give the letter to Edna when she dies. In the final chapter Madge finally dies in hospital. Barry remembers the letter and it reveals that Edna’s missing daughter Lois was taken by Madge in a moment of madness (which explains why Madge tolerated Edna over the decades). Madge writes that she gave Lois to some old friends to raise as their own, with Lois calling her Auntie Madge. In the hospital, the nurse turns out to be called Lois and is upset as her Auntie Madge has just died.
Having read the book do I believe that Barry Humphries and Edna Everage are the same person? Yes I think they are the same person, but that only makes Humphries even cleverer. The factual parts about Barry’s life are interesting to read, but the fiction about Edna is even more interesting. It not only makes the book very entertaining, but it gives an insight into the psyche of Humphries.
The book was a brilliant read, and as you’d expect from a bibliography it has several glossy photo pages throughout the book. You can buy Handling Edna: The Unauthorised Biography by Barry Humphries on Amazon.