Naomi Jacob was a celebrated novelist who also wrote a series of autobiographical works.
Her paternal grandfather was a Jewish tailor who had escaped the pogroms of Western Prussia and settled in England. Her maternal grandfather was the two-time mayor of Ripon in Yorkshire, England.
She loved the theatre and became a character actress on stage and in film, notably opposite John Geilgud in The Ringer (1936). She also associated with the Du Mauriers, Henry Irving, Marie Lloyd and Sarah Bernhardt. At 18 she became secretary, and lover, of music hall star Marguerite Broadfoote.
Naomi Jacob published her first novel, Jacob Usher in 1925. It became a bestseller.
In 1928 she appeared for the defence of Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, and developed a friendship with Hall and her companion Una Troubridge.
After suffering with tuberculosis, in 1930 she left England for Italy, where she lived for most of the rest of her life.
In 1935 Naomi Jacob was awarded the Eichelberger International Humane Award, for outstanding achievement in the field of humane endeavour, for her novel Honour Come Back. She was forced to reject the award when she discovered that a previous recipient had been Adolf Hitler.
In 1940, she was evacuated back to England when Italy entered the Second World War. There, she joined the Entertainments National Service Association, becoming famous for her flamboyant appearance— crew cut hair, and wearing a monocle and First World War Women’s Legion uniform.
During the 1960s she was regularly heard on radio, in particular on the BBC’s Woman’s Hour.
Today, Naomi Jacob is probably best-remembered for her seven-novel Gollantz saga. This follows several generations of a Jewish family, tracing their path from Vienna in the early nineteenth century to England in the twentieth century.
Read the novels of Naomi Jacob in exclusive ebook editions from Wyndham Books: