Mlle Louise Catherine d’Albrecht is only fifteen years old when she meets love. She lost her mother when she was very young, and her father brought her up sternly, with no physical display of affection, while anonymously spoiling her with presents.
Much older than she is, Monsieur de Ramon, her tutor, arouses her first physical flutters and becomes her secret lover. At first, Louise is tormented by her feelings, shifting between giving in to them and exercising restraint, but she ends up giving herself, body and soul, to the man who seduced her. Monsieur de Ramon, a true Pygmalion, teaches her the pleasures of flesh and spirit. However, because of him, she suffers the torture of jealousy and the torments of absence. When her father forces her to leave the city to return back to the country, Louise is looked after by her young aunt, the austere Mlle d’Ambricourt.
Later, back in Paris, she waits for her lover, but after he doesn’t appear she sinks into anxiety and piety. She develops an interest in people with disadvantages and learns some rudiments of medicine to cure the physically needy. Through this, she comes back to the physical body.
She settles into a quiet life by her father’s side, but is left an orphan after he falls off his horse and dies. She then dedicates her life to her studies and the writing of her first book. Thanks to this book and her words, Monsieur de Ramon comes back to her. They give their love to each other, an absolute love, until Monsieur de Ramon, feeling old and not worthy of his lover’s brightness, decides to leave her while she is pregnant. Later, tragedy strikes when she loses her six-year-old daughter, and she sinks into a lonely life, full of memories of her lover and haunting desires. She has a one-way correspondence with her lover, finishing her life in asceticism, sharpened by the ghost of desire and hastening her end by curing victims of an epidemic.