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The Duke and Duchess of Windsor in 1937 after their wedding at the Château de Candé in the Loire Valley. Photograph: Popperfoto/Getty Images Untitled: The Real Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor Anna Pasternak William Collins, £20, pp368Most biographical accounts of Wallis Simpson have painted her as “the American harlot”, as she was known by the British public during her relationship with Edward VIII. Anna Pasternak’s empathetic study of Wallis attempts to redress the balance and emphasises her intelligence, independence and unwillingness to ruin the life of the man she loved. Some will believe Pasternak’s conclusions to be overly sympathetic, and this book does not replace Anne Sebba’s That Woman as the definitive contemporary work about Wallis, but with such aggressive press coverage of Meghan Markle, it is useful to be reminded that perceived royal interlopers have always been treated harshly. The King’s Evil Andrew Taylor HarperCollins, £14.99, pp464The third in the series of Andrew Taylor’s crime novels set in the Restoration era could be the best yet. Moving on from the Great Fire and its aftermath, which dominated his previous books, Taylor’s main characters Cat Lovett and James Marwood find themselves caught up in a conspiracy that spans London’s high and low life alike, as Cat is framed for a murder at Clarendon House and Marwood must prove her innocence. Taylor has a rare knack for conjuring up an authentic historical atmosphere, and his description of a teeming, uncertain London in a state of flux is vivid and compelling. Circe Madeline Miller Bloomsbury, £8.99, pp352Madeline Miller’s excellent Circe ties in with the current vogue for classical revisionism in that it looks at a famous incident from literature from the female perspective. In this novel, the episode from The Odyssey where Odysseus is stranded on Circe’s island becomes, in Miller’s retelling from Circe’s perspective, a stirring account of feminine empowerment and hard-won agency. Yet she never forgets the reason these books have endured is because of the strength of the storytelling, and, as in her debut, The Song of Achilles, this works as the most compelling of fantastical sagas as well.• To order Untitled: The Real Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, The King’s Evil or Circe go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £15, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99
‘Fingernails should be given a curve, while toenails should be cut straight across, to prevent ingrowth.’ Posed by a model. Photograph: 4FR/Getty ImagesNails should be kept fairly short. The longer they are, the more easily they are damaged – especially your fingernails, if you work with your hands. If they are fine, you can use a normal clipper; for anything thicker – usually toenails, but sometimes fingernails – you will need a heavy-duty version. Use a nail file for shaping, or if it hurts when you clip your nails. You don’t need to use it in just one direction, but do file gently to avoid damage.Fingernails should be given a curve, while toenails should be cut straight across, to prevent ingrowth. You can cut a little down the sides of your toenails, especially if you are prone to ingrowing toenails, to take them away from the skin. If you have persistent problems with an ingrowing toenail, you will need to see a doctor.Your nails will be softer after a bath or shower, so if you have thicker nails it may be easier to cut them then. With brittle nails, however, cutting them when they are soft may make things worse.There is no harm in giving your cuticles a gentle trim, but don’t overdo it – they protect your nail bed from infection by keeping out debris.You should moisturise your hands and feet, including your nails and cuticles, every day. The thicker the cream, the better. If you use polish, give your nails a break from time to time so that air and moisturiser can reach them and prevent discolouration.Dr Sweta Rai is a spokesperson for the British Association of Dermatologists
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Antarctica: ‘Landscape was the great teacher,’ writes Barry Lopez. Photograph: Felipe Trueba/EPA-EFE/Rex/ShutterstockReading Barry Lopez is a religious experience, and that’s not meant entirely as a compliment. His great devotional paean to the light and landscape of the far, frozen north, Arctic Dreams (1986), established him as one of the leading nature writers of his generation and won a host of admirers, from Robert Macfarlane to Margaret Atwood to Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Arctic Dreams was, indeed, an extraordinary book, as was its predecessor, Of Wolves and Men (1978), which was not only a compelling history of the long, troubled relationship between man and animal, but also a stirring evocation of the rugged landscape against which this relationship played out.One notices rather fewer celebrity endorsements for Lopez’s fables and short stories, even though fiction outweighs nonfiction in his career so far. His stories draw heavily on Native American mythology, and are often clunkingly spiritual, sanctimonious and didactic. Whereas in Arctic Dreams the light and desolation of the landscape seem perfectly suited to his austere, exalted register – indeed it feels as if he speaks with the voice of the ice in that book – reading beyond his first two works of nonfiction is a bit of a slog. As even one of his great champions, Robert Macfarlane, admitted in a 2005 article, “it is hard to imagine Lopez ever smiling”.Now we have Horizon, which Lopez describes as an “autobiographical reflection”. It’s the record of a life spent at the dangerous edge of things, and gives the sense of a man driven by a seemingly unquenchable, although largely unexplained, thirst to explore and record the world’s most rugged and inhospitable corners. The book is structured around six more or less hostile environments: Cape Foulweather, a headland near the author’s Oregon home and the site of Captain Cook’s first landfall on the American mainland; Skraeling Island in the high Canadian Arctic; the Galápagos islands; western Kenya’s Turkana uplands; Port Arthur in Tasmania; and, finally, the dizzying isolation of the central Transantarctic mountains.To each of these locations, Lopez brings a host of other travellers, from Cook and Darwin, to Shackleton, to lesser-known adventurers such as the eccentric Ranald MacDonald, to the indigenous inhabitants of the land past and present. He also brings his own wandering history, so that from each site he radiates outwards, making associations between the central journey he describes and other visits to the same or similar locations. Lopez is a scientist, a geologist, an archaeologist, a photographer; he’s a polymath whose interest ranges widely but always returns to the landscape. It’s striking, though, that it’s the final chapter, about Antarctica, that is the most memorable and compelling. There’s a sense of relief when Lopez steps away from it all, into the blinding whiteness of the ice. “The landscape around us, I knew,” he writes, “was the great teacher here. You just had to step into it, with an open mind and an eager heart.” This, you understand, is where the author feels truly at home.In Horizon’s rather perfunctory introduction, Lopez skims over his childhood and early adulthood almost as if they had happened to someone else. Indeed, the first several pages are written in the third person. Here Lopez offers only the most guarded revelations about his feelings, providing the reader with insights that are striking only for their banality – “Travelling, I came to understand, assuaged something in me.” Within this half-hearted autobiographical material (which also peppers the main body of the text) we find clues as to what might have driven the author’s ceaseless wandering – an itinerant childhood strung between California and New York, a departed father, an obsession with maps. More powerful, though, are Lopez’s reflections on the essential unknowability of place. He speaks of having “beheld things so beautiful I couldn’t breathe” and yet recognises that these stunning landscapes are passively hostile to him both physically and epistemologically. “One can never,” he writes, “even by paying the strictest attention at multiple levels, entirely comprehend a single place, no matter how many times one might travel there. This is not only because the place itself is constantly changing but because the deep nature of every place is not transparency. It’s obscurity.” The same might be said of the author of this strangely tight-lipped memoir.• Horizon by Barry Lopez is published by Vintage (£25). To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £15, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99