Anne of Avonlea (Anne of Green Gables #2), by Lucy Maud Montgomery
I remember that "Anne of Avonlea" takes place during the time that Anne spends teaching at Avonlea school, but cannot for the life of me remember much else that happens. She and Gilbert become close friends. I remember that.
Is this the book where Marilla takes in those twins? Or is that later in the series?
I was right. This is the book where Marilla takes in the twins. Dora and Davy Keith, who are the children of one of Marilla's cousins.
"Anne of Avonlea" is a series of smaller intertwined storylines among the people that Anne knows. A number of newcomers have arrived in Avonlea, among them Mr. Harrison, their new next-door neighbor; and Paul Irving, the ten-year-old son of a former Avonlea resident who moved to Boston and married a woman there. Paul's mother has died and Paul's father sent him to live with Paul's grandmother in Avonlea.
Anne, Diana, Gilbert, and many of the other young people of Avonlea have formed the Avonlea Village Improvement Society, a group geared towards making Avonlea more appealing and, in many ways, more modern. While some of their ideas work out well, we hear more about the disasters and near-disasters than the successes.
Anne has taken over the Avonlea Village school. Gilbert and Jane are also teaching on the island, as is Anne's friend Priscilla, whom she met at Queen's Academy. A number of the adventures detailed in "Anne of Avonlea" relate to her first years of teaching, including the introduction of the aforementioned Paul Irving, who is very much a "kindred spirit," and Anthony Pye, a cousin of Josie and Gertie, who is a troublemaker, and definitely not in a good way.
I was extremely surprised that apparently in her first five years living in Avonlea, Anne didn't explore every corner of the area, as she and Diana find two new places that they had previously been unaware of.
One is the garden of Hester Gray, who died, from what we can tell, sometime in the 1850s. Hester had been "in the country," and later moved to Boston, where she met and married a man from Avonlea. They moved to Avonlea and a few years afterwards, she died of consumption. Her husband moved away and when he died around ten years later, his body was brought back to Avonlea. They are buried in the Avonlea cemetery.
The other is a small stone house known as "Echo Lodge." Echo Lodge is the home of Lavendar Lewis. Twenty-five years earlier, Lavendar had been engaged to Stephen Irving, Paul Irving's father. They quarreled and Stephen left for Boston, where he met and married Paul's mother some years later. Lavendar never married but stayed in Echo Lodge and over the years has had the four daughters of the Bowman family come to live with her and to work. Lavendar can never remember the sisters' names, so she calls them all "Charlotta," the name of the eldest sister. Her current helper is known as "Charlotta the Fourth," and even if she doesn't quite she turn out to be a "kindred spirit," she at least has a sense of humor about the flights of fancy and adventures that the "kindred spirits" around her have.
One of the things I find confusing and cannot find any references to explain it to me, is why Jane was home working as a teacher after only a year at Queen's. We knew that Anne and Gilbert would be coming home after a year, but Jane's return was a surprise. Was the "second class work," as Montgomery described the program that the other Avonlea kids took, it a one-year course as well and Moody Spurgeon, who is stated as still being at Queen's, had to repeat? Did Charlie, Josie, and Ruby pass and go on to other things? Or was it a two-year course and Charlie, Josie, Moody Spurgeon and Ruby are all still at Queen's? In this case this Jane teaching sounds like a failure of continuity. Did Montgomery forget that only Anne and Gilbert took the teacher's course in one year and Jane was supposed to take it in two? Or was this a relatively early example of a retcon? Did Montgomery decide that she needed to have Jane in Avonlea in "Anne of Avonlea" and so she just retroactively changed Jane's course of study from two years to one?
I am also uncertain why Montgomery gave Davy a twin sister. With literally one exception, Dora does nothing but be perfect all of the time. She doesn't want to eat snacks between meals, she doesn't make messes, she doesn't play or read or really do very much of anything. I suspect she may be an android and Marilla keeps her in a box in the cellar when she isn't useful to the plot.
Davy on the other hand, is definitely not an android. He is more like a wild animal. He has no clue how to live among civilized people. When we first meet him, he is standing up in the carriage pulling the tail of the horse. Later on, he plays a mean trick on his sister, and gets a kick out of watching the adults panic as a result. He also spends entirely too much time (in my opinion) enjoying the deaths of living things (off the top of my head, I can think of two -- he enjoys watching chickens die, and he got so much pleasure from squishing a grub that he wished he could find more). I know that enjoying the suffering of animals is a tendency that children who grow up to be sociopaths have. As a result, I have to admit that I spent a little bit of time researching sociopathy to see if Davy met the criteria (the results, by the way, were inconclusive). I wonder about people in the late 1800s that Montgomery never had any of the other characters say, "Davy, emotionally healthy people aren't disappointed that they missed their chances to watch a cat have a seizure." Fortunately, in this volume Davy is still young and so it is awfully early to give up on him. We'll see how he develops in future books.