Living To Tell The Tale by Gabriel Garcia Marquez Knopf $250 It's easy to lose yourself in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's autobiography because it's as mesmerising as his novels. In his trademark lyrical prose the author reveals his delight in recounting fantastic adventures, a plethora of eccentric characters and, as always, an exploration of the myths of his beloved Colombia. This is the first in the Nobel Prize winner's autobiographical trilogy, and it opens as the 22-year-old Garcia Marquez and his mother take the gruelling journey to his grandparents' former home in the hope of selling the crumbling property that sits in an even more bereft town. Although Garcia Marquez portrays his parents with love and humour, as the eldest of 11 children he bears frequent witness to the family's lurch between financial crises. Many of the stories heard from his relatives, and later as a journalist, give Garcia Marquez the raw material and characters we see in such works as 100 Years Of Solitude, Chronicle Of A Death Foretold and Of Love And Other Demons. Garcia Marquez comes across as a likeable character but an undoubted challenge to his parents, who believe the brains of their eldest son should lead to a profitable and respectable career in law. Nicknamed 'the perfect kid' by his grandmother, the young Garcia Marquez reveals a prodigious intelligence and an obsession with reading and writing. He writes poetry, is a skilful artist, loves to play the tiple (a derivative of the guitar), sings with his friends, and performs a Cyrano De Bergerac role for classmates eager to impress schoolgirls with their poetic declarations of love. Surprisingly, he also suffers from crippling shyness ('I had the timidity of a quail'), and on more than one occasion is saved from missing literary opportunities by his ebullient friends. Although a good scholar, he soon becomes a dissolute teenager, and his early 20s are spent in a state of poverty that embarrasses his mother. The unkempt, sandal-wearing Garcia Marquez feverishly studies the technical skill needed to become a great writer and begins a number of novels, only to believe they are worthless. Tired of the tedious law degree he is stumbling through, he is somewhat saved when his first story is published in 1947, and his career as a journalist begins. But journalism doesn't pay enough to live on, so we are introduced to the succession of lovers and friends who bail him out and offer him a bed for the night. He writes with affection of the band of friends who discuss authors, literature and prose until dawn, drinking the harshest, cheapest liquor and smoking the roughest cigarettes. His self-obsession and youth mean he fails to notice Colombia's descent into anarchy, but in literary terms Garcia Marquez effortlessly weaves in the political tensions, revolutions and upheavals of the time with the continued fortunes of his family, his career and his love life. Garcia Marquez leaves us in his late 20s as he flies off to Europe with the tantalising discovery that the woman he has been proposing to since she was 13 years old may finally be taking him seriously.