Book Reviews

Madly, Deeply: The Alan Rickman Diaries. Edited by Alan Taylor

Cover of Madly, Deeply the diaries of the actor Alan Rickman

I read very little non fiction and, the odd passage by Samuel Pepys aside, have never read any published diaries. So I’m handing over the blog today to Mr BookerTalk who is far better acquainted with this form of the written word. Here are his thoughts on Madly, Deeply, The Alan Rickman Diaries

All these things could be said to be true of Alan Rickman. He was:

  • a thoroughbred and gifted actor;
  • a fascinating character;
  • an intellectual of sorts;
  • good company (as long as you didn’t get on the wrong side of him);
  • fun-loving and
  • as lovable as a labrador.

Why then are his diaries so relatively dull? I was expecting to find in Madly, Deeply, a generous sprinkling of waspish remarks concerning his fellow screen stars and some gossipy stuff about celebs along with entertaining and insightful scribblings about the atypical days of an actor and his jet set lifestyle.

Instead I get lists of names, some well-known, some obscure except in showbiz circles. Sometimes there are not even names but just initials. All events are précised to the bare bones; a taxi, a venue, who’s there (usually an alphabet soup of initials), maybe a mention of the restaurant fare. We are told that a particular evening takes a bacchanalian turn before becoming, it seems, something of an orgy (“lights out and a pile of bodies on the bed”). But we are left without the juicy details. 

Similarly frustrating is to read entries concerning doubts about fellow actors’ abilities and attitudes which are couched in arcane and disguised terms. We want the hot gossip!

It’s unfair to lay any blame for this on the author who almost certainly did not envisage his diaries finding their way into print. The fact that they have is perhaps down to his heightened profile thanks to 10 years as of Severus Snape in all eight Harry Potter films (2001 – 2011) meaning there was a ready market of new and older fans interested in the thoughts of one of Britain’s most charismatic actors. 

Madly, Deeply –The Alan Rickman Diaries appeared in 2022, six years after the actor’s death from pancreatic cancer just shy of his 70th birthday.

It took editor Alan Taylor five years to tackle the million or so words recorded in the 1993 – 2016 journals and manhandle them into a publishable form and for that he must be credited. But the diary entries are effectively in shorthand and that produces a level of frustration for the reader due to a feeling of not being in on the full story. 

The picture is fogged and some kind of unobtrusive continuity narrative  — italicised paragraphs here and there — to explain projects and set events in context would add clarity and turn a mildly interesting book into a throughly absorbing one.

Madly, DeeplyThe Alan Rickman Diaries: Footnotes

Alan Rickman began his career as a stage actor but was an equally successful film actor. He trained at the  Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London (RADA) and toured with British repertory theatre companies before joining the  Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1980s.

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape

On screen, his breakthrough came when he appeared as the Reverend Obadiah Slope in the BBC adaptation of The Barchester Chronicles. He began appearing in films in the late 1980s, gaining critical acclaim for his supporting role of Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role nomination and a Screen Actors Guild Award. He played opposite Thompson in the 2003 film Love Actually.

Though a highly respected actor ,it was his involvement with the Harry Potter film series that brought him national and international fame. He first appeared as Severus Snape, the potions master, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 2001 and continued to play the role through until 2011.

Throughout 2005, Alan Rickman received treatment for an aggressive form of prostate cancer. In August 2015, he suffered a minor stroke, which led to a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. He died in January 2016 having revealed his illness to only a few of his closest friends and confidants.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

13 thoughts on “Madly, Deeply: The Alan Rickman Diaries. Edited by Alan Taylor

  • From what you say, Edward (and from Goodreads reviews) I’d imagine the diaries would’ve been better if they’d formed the basis of a decent biography, so I’m at a loss to understand why the editor Alan Taylor (who I see has written bios of other figures) didn’t go the whole hog. If he’d got permission to publish these, warts and all, why not expand what seem to be aide-mémoire notes? Curious.

  • Nice review Mr BT. I loved watching his films and was quite keen to get this when it came out as I was hoping for some real insights but after reading a couple of paper reviews, I thought nah, will pass on this one.

    • Edward Colley

      I think you made the right decision there. So many books, so little time – can’t afford to waste it on 400 pages of meh.

      • Edward Colley

        PS: Edward Colley is Mr BT!

  • Thanks Mr BT for taking one for the team here! If this is the original diaries, well then there was no point in publishing – if they’re edited, why bother if it makes them so dull!!

    • Edward Colley

      Good points. Someone, Alan Taylor for example, should have realised when ploughing through the million words that the stuff wasn’t up to snuff. Maybe he’d gone so far into it he didn’t want to see all that work wasted or maybe he felt he had a scoop – and a money-making one at that – trading on a famous name. (PS: Colley is Mr BT)

  • What a shame. I was madly, deeply in love with Alan Rickman long before the Harry Potter days and I’d have expected him to have a way with his own words as well as those of others. Thanks for joining – albeit temporarily – the world of blogging, Mr. BT!

    • Edward Colley

      It’s certain that if Mr Rickman had set out to publish some work, be it autobiographical or otherwise, it would have been well written and, given his experiences in the world, entertaining. But he didn’t have publishing on his mind when he made these diary entries. The man is completely blameless and, to be fair, it’s not all bad. (PS: Colley is Mr BT).

      • Aha! The secret’s out! A shame though that AR didn’t set his mind to a publishable work. It would have certainly made interesting reading.

  • Thank you for that review Mr BT. I own a few diaries and collected letters – and my own diaries, although not my letters, would be as abbreviated as Rickman’s (and, sadly, without the orgies). I use them for reference, to pin dates down for a particular event, but I couldn’t imagine reading them straight through.

    • Edward Colley

      Your point is well made. What was actually needed here was a really good biog with the diary entries used as back-up material. Opportunity missed – although no doubt plans are afoot for such a book! (PS: Colley is Mr BT).

  • Oh that’s a shame! As you say he had quite an audience towards the end who would be ager to read this sort of thing.


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