A dowdy, frustrated spinster from a wealthy New England family, living with her overpowering mother in the stiflingly repressive Boston of the inter-war years, suffers a nervous breakdown after an unhappy love affair.
Partially restored under the wise guidance of a psychiatrist, she is urged by her fashionably elegant sister-in-law to have a beauty makeover and to undertake a Mediterranean cruise.
Physically transformed, she meets on board an architect, Jerry Durrance, with whom slowly, as she gains confidence in her new image, she falls in love.
But he is married with children he loves, and the affair cannot have a happy ending.
Circumstances lead her to form a special bond with his vulnerable 12-year-old daughter, and finally she settles for a loving relationship with him and the child.
The famous last line, of both the film and the book, is: Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon.
We have the stars!"