Disregarded for decades, Jean Rhys stayed true to her vision of life

Jean Rhys, who died at the age of 88 in 1979, lived to be forgotten and rediscovered. Like many readers, I first came across her through her novel Wide Sargasso Sea, which imagines the pre-history of Jane Eyre’s ‘madwoman in the attic’, the Creole heiress married off to Mr Rochester and then incarcerated by him at Thornfield Hall. When it came out to great acclaim in 1966, it marked the rebirth of a writer who hadn’t published a book for more than a quarter of a century and who had even been presumed dead. Born Ella Gwendoline Rees Williams in Dominica in 1890, Rhys drew on her own background as