Books: Hatpins & the Femina

To the troubled bubbling of the French literary cauldron, no one supplies more fire, or more newt's eyes, than twelve eccentric old ladies who meet every so often to nibble lunch, bite backs and, once every year, pass out one of France's top literary awards, the Prix Femina. Although the Femina's cash value is only 5,000 francs ($12), the prize has enough prestige to guarantee a 100,000-copy sale to the novelist who lands it. To literary onlookers, the Femina's entertainment value is even greater; although the prize was created (in 1904) to bring literary women closer together, the hatpin-tongued old fates...

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