Born Ella Gwendolyn Rees Williams on August 24th 1890 on the island of Dominica, an island in the British West Indies.
Rhys moved to England at the age of 16, and after her father died in 1910 she began living a fairly racy lifestyle for a woman of her time. She worked as a nude model and a chorus girl, she had an affair with a wealthy stockbroker who reportedly helped her financially. She married three times, her last husband being imprisoned for fraud after their marriage in 1947. Rhys also fostered relationships and friendships with writers, including Ford Madox Ford, whom Rhys had an affair with that she documented in her novel 'Quartet' (1928).
In 1930 she published 'After Leaving Mr Mackenzie', and 1934 she published 'Voyage in the Dark' about a mistreated, rootless woman. 'Good Morning, Midnight', published in 1939, is a modernist novel that is experimental in design and deals with a woman's feelings of vulnerability, depression, loneliness and desperation during the years between the two World Wars. In 1966, after a long absence from the literary world, Rhys published 'The Wide Sargasso Sea' after spending years drafting and perfecting it. The novel is a prequel to 'Jane Eyre,' the story of Mr. Rochester's first wife, the 'madwoman in the attic.' Rhys had begun an autobiography just months before she died, but it was not finished when she passed away in 1977 at the age of 88. The book was published, however, as 'Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography' in 1995 by Penguin Classics.