When I asked my mum if we had any books on Australian history, I was a little taken aback to be handed a fictionalised account of Mary Mackillop's childhood, but there it is. And to be fair, I guess I am a bit more knowledgeable about Australian history having read it.Overall "The Black Dress" was an interesting, and dare I say inspiring story, and while I've never been very curious about Australia's first and only saint, I definitely didn't finish the book feeling my time had been wasted. The book is based on true events, though much of the time it felt like I was reading pure fiction, not because the story was unbelievable (I can definitely believe times were that rough), but maybe because the writing was geared towards younger readers, and so situations like her family's (numerous) financial difficulties were ... not romanticised, but glossed over a bit, I suppose. Bad things happened, but the impact never lingered. Maybe it was just the structure of the book, too, with the story drifting back and forth between young Mary and Mary on her death-bed. I can't pin it down, I guess, but my main gripe is that we spend all of our time in Mary's head, yet by the end I was still left feeling distanced from her, as if she was never a real person at all.The only other complaint that comes to mind is a bit spoilery. Basically, Mary spends time with an Aunt who can't have children of her own, and the experience helps convince the Aunt that she could adopt children and still love them as her own. Mary only learns of this years later when she meets the adopted children, and "old" Mary reflects on her initial disappointment at the prospect of not being able to have children if she wanted to become a nun; and then of love for the children she was able to care for as a nun. Later we see "then" Mary muse about how different her life would have been had she not become a nun, and how she might not have been able to have children anyway due to menstrual issues (or something. The book kinda glosses over that, too). She laments on what an unfulfilled marriage it would have been without children ... despite the fact that she and the reader have already seen that adoption is a completely viable option! It struck me as a very odd and inconsistent moment, considering how touched Mary had been when her aunt had told her truth, and how completely accepting Mary had been of adoptionI enjoyed her relationship with her family, however, especially her relationship with her unreliable dad. You might say you'd need the patience of a saint to put up with him (but I won't, of course. Ahem.) Dare I say it, her dad felt more "real" to me than Mary did. Her relationship with her mother was quite touching, too. It was these sorts of elements that I enjoyed most about the book. I think what I really wanted to read is what we only get a glimpse of: Mary's actual work as a nun. This isn't the book's fault, of course. It says "Early Years" right there on the front cover.So for an embellished account of the events that led Mary to become a nun, I think it was interesting and enjoyable, but also a bit shallow.Would recommend with that caveat.Edit: I liked Freeman's account of writing the story, too, found here.