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The story begins with a description of one of the main characters, Madame Loisel. She is pretty and charming, but she and her husband are not financially affluent. Madame Loisel has always dreamed a living the high life--a large house, lots of servants, and money to burn. However, that is not the life Fate has dealt them. Ashamed of her present state, Madame Loisel no longer visits her old school friend, Madame Forestier, who has all those things.
The complication comes when the Loisels are invited to attend a ball. Madame Loisel is upset because she has nothing to wear. Her husband offers to buy her a new dress, and then she complains she has no proper jewels to wear with it. Her husband suggests that she borrow some from Madame Forestier, which she does the next day. Her old friend welcomes her warmly and allows her to choose any jewels at all from her collection.
They attend the ball and have a fabulous time. Madame Loisel is noticed by many people, especially men. She dances until well into the morning hours, and then she and her husband leave in a shabby cab. It is not until they return home that she realizes she has lost the diamond necklace she borrowed. They spend many hours searching for the necklace and retracing their steps to no avail. They decide to replace the necklace themselves.
They work many years to do this, only to find out that it was a an invaluable fake.
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