I read this book when I was about 12, 14, and I remembered it being hard to get into but blandly nice. When I found a copy in an antique shop, I had to get it and try again.
I love this book. I love the main character's modesty and reserve, and her interest in the substance of things rather than the fashionable nonsense around her. I was too young the first time I read this to really grasp the juxtaposition Alcott made between Polly and her fashionably useless friends. Got it this time around, though.
In many ways, the point is that fashion is dull and caretakers are nice, and I kind of wanted to slap Polly a couple of times for allowing herself to be treated poorly. However, it was nice that she didn't particularly seem to enjoy being poor, but decided that she would be content. Obviously, she's supposed to be a behavioral model for all women, etc. etc., but it really wouldn't be bad if there were more Pollys in the world.
Actually, Polly reminds me of Anne Elliot in Persuasion, always quiet and there and trying to fix things. Maybe that's why I loved the book so much more this time around. I like quiet, capable heroines who worry less about attracting husbands than helping those around them. The world would benefit from more of them, and we'd probably be better off if they got more press.
So here, I'll take a stand for the quietly capable. You go, girls.