Jasper Fforde did to literary fiction (with this book), what Connie Willis did to science fiction, with her book To Say Nothing of the Dog.
My best advice on how to read this book would be to do your research. Either read Jane Eyre and Martin Chuzzlewit or do what I did and read the extended plot description on the internet, as this will help build a foundation around which a lot of the jokes take place. Then add a lot of ridiculous over the top action and you have the perfect recipe for this book.
To sum it up it was a crazy, smart, wonderful read that brought out my inner literary geek.