Though not a grand storyteller or a consummate imitator of various voices and cadences, Gerard Doyle's introspective and masterful reading of most of Toibín's short stories is nearly perfect. Doyle's assured voice fits Toibín's characters, who think more than they act, fail to communicate with those closest to them and prefer their own company to that of others. There is little dialogue since people feel they can confide in no one, even their own mother or son. Doyle phrases the stories carefully in order to highlight the rich nuances and stark lighting and scenery. The stories end abruptly, with the characters on the verge of, rather than at the end of, some transformative experience. Therefore, the extra long pauses between stories are welcome. Unfortunately, Doyle loses some of his power in the last story, ""A Long Winter,"" which is set in Spain, but in which, oddly, Doyle affects a Slavic accent. Nevertheless, Toibín's consummate writing skills are not to be missed by lovers of serious literature. Simultaneous release with Scribner hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 16).