The book tells the story of Margherita Gautier, a courtesan of great beauty who falls in love with Armand Duval, one of her lovers, and who sacrifices her own happiness for his sake. The book quickly had considerable success, both for the story and for the realism with which it is narrated. Readers soon realized that this story had a real basis: the woman had recently lived (Maria Duplessis, the pseudonym used by Alphonsine Plessis), and Armand, the lover, who was none other than the author himself, Alexander Dumas.
The book does not judge the actions morally, but simply narrates the falling in love and the dramas of both characters. It is very well written, like so many other books by this author. Although it seems to have been published as a book, it has the characteristics of a "serial" story. Verdi composed his famous opera La Traviata based on this story.