In Their Blooming Sixties: Aging as Awakening in Amanda Cross’ The Imperfect Spy and The Puzzled Heart


  • Emma Domínguez-Rué University of Lleida



Heilbrun, Cross Aging, Gender, Detective


Although the writer and Columbia professor Carolyn Gold Heilbrun (1926-2003) is more widely known for her best-selling mystery novels, published under the pseudonym of Amanda Cross, she also authored remarkable pieces of non-fiction in which she asserted her long-standing commitment to feminism, while she also challenged established notions on women and aging and advocated for a reassessment of those negative views. Taking her essays in feminism and literary criticism as a basis and two of her later novels as substantiation to my argument, this paper will try to illustrate the ways in which the aging female characters in her Kate Fansler series became an instrument to reach a mass audience of readers who might not have read her non-fiction but who were perhaps finding it difficult to reach fulfillment as women under patriarchy, especially upon reaching middle age. My aim is to reveal the ways in which Heilbrun’s seemingly more superficial and much more commercial mystery novels as Amanda Cross were used a catalyst that informed her feminist principles while vindicating the need to rethink about issues concerning the cultural and literary representations of mature women.

Author Biography

Emma Domínguez-Rué, University of Lleida

Emma Domínguez-Rué graduated in English at the University of Lleida (Catalunya, Spain) and studied an MA in English Literature at Swansea University (UK). She specialized in female invalidism in the fiction of Ellen Glasgow and read her PhD dissertation at the University of Lleida (Spain) in 2005. Her dissertation was published in 2011 with the title Of Lovely Tyrants and Invisible Women: Invalidism as Metaphor in the Fiction of Ellen Glasgow (Berlin: Logos Verlag). Aside from American Studies, she has also worked on Victorian and Gothic fiction under a feminist perspective. She is currently teaching in the Department of English at the University of Lleida and she is member of ENAS, a European research network working on aging studies.