"Sir Alec Guinness was one of the greatest actors of the twentieth century. With a talent recognised by discerning critics from his very first appearance on the stage, he gained a world-wide reputation playing roles on the screen such as Fagin in Oliver Twist and Sidney Stratton in The Man in the White Suit. His performance as Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai won him an Oscar and, in his later years, he captivated a new generation of admirers as George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars. Guinness was a man who vigorously guarded his privacy and, despite publishing an autobiography and two volumes of his diaries, he remained an enigma to the general public and a mystery even to his family and closest friends.
"After his death in August 2000, his widow, Merula, asked the author Piers Paul Read, who had been a friend of her husband, to write his authorised biography. Given full co-operation by the Guinness family and free access to Sir Alec's papers, including his private and unpublished diaries, Read has written an enjoyable, yet penetrating and perceptive account of an intriguing and complex man. Read shows how Guinness's quirks of character and genius had roots in the circumstances of his early life."