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Tampa Twins Walk In Jane Austen's Footsteps at Cambridge University

Jun 21, 2013

This weekend, Natalia and Jennifer Fiore are living the dream of Jane Austen fans.

They're attending a conference at England's Cambridge University to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Austen's magnum opus, Pride and Prejudice. They'll also attend a regency ball, eat the kinds of foods served in Austen's time and visit the final home ofAusten in the town of Chawton. That is where they will see Austen's unfinished last manuscript, Sanditon.

Jennifer Fiore, left, and Natalia Fiore in their Regency ball dresses
Credit The Fiore sisters

The Fiore twins grew up surrounded by books. Their mother was a professor of Comparative Literature, specializing in Italian authors like Dante Aligheri.

But from an early age, the focus turned to Austen, according to Jennifer Fiore, "I remember I read Pride and Prejudice in the 5th grade, that was the first time I read it and I remember even then identifying with Elizabeth Bennett, the main character. I remember feeling like this was a rite of passage, going from mostly children's literature to a grown up book. That was a seminal moment for me. So we really enjoyed reading and it really helped spur our imagination. "

Reading challenges prevented her sister Natalia from delving into the book as deeply as she would have liked. But eventually, she was able to read it, and with the 1995 Pride and Prejudice BBC miniseries as a companion, she says "she was hooked."

So what is the draw for these 21st century women? As Natalia Fiore puts it, "I remember as a little girl being inspired by Cinderella and the Prince. This notion of Mr. Darcy is that, and then you see the kind of man behind the mask, because Elizabeth hates him and he's proud, she's put off by him, she changes her perception throughout the novel. And through that change it causes her to inward reflect and that's something we do. We go, geez, I've done that, maybe I should recognize that I have this flaw."