Passionate, calculating, only sometimes honourable but alwayshonest, Fanny Legrand is one of the great female characters inliterature. Nothing could be more shocking to Jean Gaussin, aserious young student from the provinces, than the moral swamp hismistress has been living in before they met. Sculptor's model,poet's muse, Fanny Legrand has seen and done it all in the twentyyears since her first lover, Caoudal, cast in bronze the girl fromthe Paris gutter and named her Sappho. But revulsion is no matchfor lust; and little by little, despite continual outbreaks of rageand jealousy, Jean is able to live with Fanny's disgraceful past,to find a certain pleasure in the degraded domesticity of theirlife together and even to feel a degree of pride in his newconnections with famous men. The arrival on the scene of amarriageable young girl seems to offer Jean the escape route heneeds: but he cannot bring himself to deal his ageing mistress apotentially fatal blow.