Jean Rhys was born Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams on the island of Dominica (West Indies), in 1890. At the age of 16 she left for England. Hoping to start a stage career, she eventually attended the Academy of Dramatic Art in London, which she left when her father died. She remained in London throughout World War I, during which she volunteered as a cook.
In 1919 she married her first husband, a Dutch- French poet, and moved to Paris. In 1924, after the break -up of her marriage, she began writing under the pen name Jean Rhys. In the same year she met Ford Madox Ford, who became her lover for a time.
After the end of her affair with Ford and her mother's death, in 1934 she married for the second time, but went through a difficult period. In 1947, after her second husband's death, she married for the third time. She lived for many years as a recluse. She returned to public life only nearly twenty years later with her masterpiece, Wide Sargasso Sea, which earned her international acclaim. Wide Sargasso Sea (1906), it was a "prequel" to Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, is mainly set in Jamaica, but the landscape and the people in it are mostly taken from Rhys' experiences on Dominica.