THE rocky outcrops of the Quercy Blanc region and the deep reds of the wines of Cahors are the underlying elements of a corner of France many people may drive past when heading to the Mediterranean coast.
But author Amanda Lawrence stopped and used the area as the setting for her debut book, White Stone Black Wine, which opens a door on the local people and the rich history of a region dominated by vineyards, truffles and foie gras.
And although Amanda has long enjoyed visiting the region, it wasn’t until she and her family left the UK that her book began to take shape.
“We were presented with the opportunity to move to France when my husband was sort of made redundant,” Amanda said. “He was offered a post elsewhere in the UK but we decided to take the redundancy package instead.
“I’d known the Quercy region for about 40 years, and in the back of mind was the thought of writing a book about the area, but moving here was the catalyst. Our two eldest children were about to fly the nest and our two youngest children came across with us, so the timing was just right.
“After settling in I found I had more time in France, as I was wrapped up in all these village matters back in England, so I just sat down and got on with writing the book.”
Quercy is an ancient region of France that is now made up of the département of Lot and stretches into the northern half of Tarn-et-Garonne, with the historic town of Cahors at its heart.
And it is Cahors, with its famous Pont Valentré astride the River Lot, that has played such an important role in the region over the centuries.
“I think Cahors sums up Quercy as the lifeblood of the area is its wine, really it is about the only industry for the region alongside a little agriculture, so the place has that as well as the fact its history stretches back 2,800 years, it’s as old as Rome.
“And even though it is a diminutive town, there are only 20,000 inhabitants, everything you could want to understand about the area is there, you could go to Rocamadour but in the summer it is a little bit spoiled and becomes too touristic.”
Away from the larger towns and cities Amanda also takes a look at the lives of the people who live in the small villages dotted around the region, which includes taking in the winter markets near her home in Lalbenque and introducing readers some of her neighbours.
“We live in a very rural area of the Quercy that is right in the middle of the Cahors’ vineyards so most of my neighbours are vignerons,” said Amanda. “They are hard bitten characters, living their lives on the land and they do have a few tales to tell.
“Some will head out in the winter looking for truffles with a stick and their pig, and at the market in Lalbenque the buyers from Paris come down wearing their camel coats trying to negotiating a deal with the locals who stick to their guns. We went one winter’s day it was freezing, but great fun.”
Amanda used the winter months to write White Stone Black Wine, fitting it in with running the French Entrée website for the region, while the summer sunshine saw her head outdoors to undertake research and explore the area.
And Amanda hopes to help two local animal charities raise funds by donating money to their cause from sales of the book.
“There are two animal charities we are connected with PoorPaws and and Les Amis des Chats, which are run by local ladies on a very limited budget and they donate all their spare time and cash to rehoming abandoned dogs and cats, it is an admirable service that I hope I can support,” Amanda said.
“So we have given them order forms for their members to buy the book through my own website so we can donate €2 to which ever charity, obviously if you buy the book through an online bookstore then this donation is not made.”
And already Amanda has plans for the future with new titles in the pipeline.
“I am currently working on a sequel to White Stone Black Wine, but it takes me some time to write so it might be 18 months before it’s published,” Amanda said. “And my third title will be something a little different.”
Last Updated on 8 July, 2008.